Director Charles Matthau (son of the late Walter Mattau) premiered his new film Freaky Deaky at the Tribeca Film Festival this year with much of the cast on hand to discuss the film afterwards as part of the Tribeca Talks series. Based on the Elmore Leonard book of the same name, the movie is a retro tribute set in ’70s Detroit instead of the year 1988 when the book ‘took place’ (as with the film Trishna I am not familiar with the source material). The quirky film is enjoyable and plays for laughs with the help of a mostly fun ensemble though there are a few weak links in the characters.
Detective Chris Mankowski (Billy Burke) is the center of the film, though the film revolves around the Ricks family, Woody (Crispin Glover) and Mark (Andy Dick) who have just come into a large sum of money, and the characters who are trying to get a share. Michael Jai White plays the scheming Donnell Lewis, Woody’s driver, bodyguard and assistant, whose goal is to write himself into the Woody’s will. Then there is a devious duo led by Robin Abbot (Breanne Racano) who convinces her dynamite-enthusiast friend Skip Gibbs (Christian Slater) to threaten the Ricks in order to get at the inheritance. Perhaps the only one not out to get the money is Greta Wyatt (Sabina Gadecki) who accuses Woody of raping her at a party Robin had also attended. She connects with Mankowski at the police station when he’s transferred to Sex Crimes after leaving the Bomb Squad.
The strongest performances come from four of the males. Glover, known for his oddball roles, portrays the perpetually hazy Woody well, floating in the pool fully dressed and otherwise generally oblivious to conversations. I found myself anticipating his next screen scene. Similarly, Dick also has some fun on screen as does Slater, but neither has as much time to stand out on screen. The best performance is from White, whose double takes and attitude earns Donnell the most laughs as he shifts his alliances in order to get his payday.
On the other hand, Burke, who more or less drives the story, pulling the narrative and characters together (often at the Ricks house where the pieces of an exploded car still remain on the front lawn), lacks the charm of the rest of the men. Of the women, Racano plays a bomb-shell who speaks like a femme fatale, but her presence felt wooden throughout even when she was getting ‘freaky deaky’. Gadecki played her character well, being light, fluffy and adorable, everything you would want in a sex kitten, but added more style than substance in the plot.
That being said, you already know not to take the film too seriously. The retro music and style pays a tribute to an era (much like White’s film Black Dynamite is). Laugh along with the characters, not at them, and you’ll take more away from Freaky Deaky.
The panel after the film was an extra treat. Moderator, Kurt Loder, had a fun time with the ensemble, though neither Slater, the major name, nor Burke, the lead, was present. Leonard Robinson (Juicy Mouth) joined Racano, Gadecki, Dick, White, Glover and Matthau on stage for some discussion and questions from the audience. Everyone got a bit of time to talk about the film or other projects. Glover recognized that he was known for playing odd characters but discussed his own independent filmmaking process a bit. Dick was happy to have worked with the cast, making jokes about automatically having a role in their new projects, but also referred to his own past drug experiences lightly. Matthau discussed that he was working on a new film Sugar Shack.
Then the panel was opened to questions from the audience, which included one from Kevin Brown of 30 Rock and another from Jack Lemmon’s son. When asked how she portrayed a drug trip so well on screen, Gadecki explained that she and Racano viewed YouTube videos that simulate a specific drug’s effects (she didn’t learn from any of the firsthand experiences of her male colleagues on stage). Lemmon’s son asked why his father’s name came second on the marquee in a cinema on the film. Just like the movie, things weren’t too serious.