Another year of magic arrives with the 2023 Santa Barbara International Film Festival! Unfortunately due to accessibility, we were unable to cover a swath of features that we were intending to view; nevertheless, the festival was host to a plethora of previously-watched features that we really enjoyed, too! Read on for our full coverage after the jump…
Full review at the link.
Fathers and Mothers
(Written by Allison Brown) Fathers and Mothers is best described as a lesser-quality Danish version of 2010’s Grown Ups. Most of the reviews I have seen online are probably unfairly harsh, as it is still mildly entertaining. Ulrik (Jacob Lohmann) and Piv (Katrine Greis-Rosenthal) are about to move their daughter, Hannah (Ida Skelbæk-Knudsen), into a new school for the fourth time. They seem to be more concerned with the social opportunities for parents rather than the quality of the education. Once, accepted, the film shifts gears into a sleepaway camp-like setting where both adults and children can have a good time. The synopsis implies more school dynamics and politics rather than this course Director Paprika Steen decided on. The cult-like or fraternity-esque behavior is where the film thrives. The children have much less influence on the story than they probably should. Some of the comedy doesn’t land, and it is only moderately funny. Nevertheless, Fathers and Mothers is worth a watch for a solidly okay comedy.
I LIKE MOVIES
Previously reviewed for 2022’s Toronto International Film Festival.
Having followed writer/director Michelle Danner across several different genres from thriller to drama to horror, I was especially excited to see how Danner would tackle an intimate historical drama with a meaningful message. The investigative lens is placed on the true story of a groundbreaking case on Miranda rights. We all know the basics, and that the reading of rights makes evidence admissible in a courtroom, but what of the victims on the opposite side? Abigail Breslin (Scream Queens, Little Miss Sunshine) headlines as Trish, the titular lead of Miranda’s Victim. Danner fills her film with exciting big names like Luke Wilson, Donald Sutherland, and Ryan Phillippe, always supporting Breslin’s captivating performance. Nightmarish hauntings of trauma that plague Trish are portrayed with the proper amount of nastiness. The courtroom drama in particular works well—Miranda’s Victim drives home poignant messaging by portraying its eventual karmic retribution with a delicate touch. This is a powerful story that will no doubt speak to a lot of people, and I think Danner has done the material the justice it so rightly deserves.
The Other Widow
(Written by Allison Brown) I had hoped Maayan Rypp’s The Other Widow would have more drama, but it is unfortunately quite tame. The film starts off strong when the correct man’s takeout order is delivered to the wrong woman; a successful comedic moment barely carries through to the rest of the movie. Little does this woman, Ella (Dana Ivgy), know, but this fateful order will cause her partner’s early death. The whole film is spent following Ella as she neglects her job and awkwardly inches her way into her partner’s widow’s life. The reveal of Ella as the other woman comes far too late into the runtime to cause enough ripples. The directorial approach is also quite strange; it is generally a straightforward mainstream style, but a handful of arthouse scenes feel randomly dropped in. The content feels experimental, but the cinematography tells a different story. While I don’t entirely regret watching The Other Widow, I do wish it were more entertaining.
STARRING JERRY AS HIMSELF
(Written by Allison Brown) When “Florida man” is featured in the synopsis of a true crime docufiction film, one just knows they are in for a treat, and Starring Jerry As Himself provides just that. It is a wild, yet incredibly predictable ride that came highly recommended from a friend. Retired Jerry is recruited for a secret mission to help investigate his local bank’s money laundering scheme from a mysterious phone call that puts him in the center of the action. To no one’s surprise, the callers on the other line are nefarious and disingenuous. There are so many checks from both businesses and family along the way that could have prevented the situation from escalating, but the stupidity and egotism of everyone involved is at fault. I grew more and more frustrated at each poor decision as the story progressed. Director Law Chen surely has good intentions, but the spy angle seems a little insensitive, even if Jerry is in on the joke. Jerry’s situation is seriously abhorrent situation, and should not have been made light of to this extent. Despite this, Jerry As Himself provides a uniquely compelling execution, shining a light on how easily the elderly can fall victim to scams.
THREE NIGHTS A WEEK
Previously reviewed for 2022’s Venice Film Festival.
For more information about the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, head on over to their official website. We look forward to seeing what they have to offer again next year!