Between the movies, industry panels, and late night parties, it’s almost impossible to stay on top of everything a film festival has to offer. Once you factor in all the late nights scrambling to write film reviews, in-depth coverage of most festival films is near impossible. I’ve put together a Gasparilla International Film Festival (GIFF) movie diary to offer quick rundowns on the films I would normally devote more time to.
GIFF MOVIE DIARY ENTRY #4-6
Carrie Pilby is director, Susan Johnson’s, feature-length directorial debut. Based on the young adult novel of the same name, the film is a comedy-drama starring Bel Powley, Nathan Lane, and Gabriel Byrne. This movie isn’t for everyone, but those who enjoy coming of age stories will have a fun 98-minutes.
Carrie Pilby features Bel Powley as the film’s eponymous heroine. She is a certified genius who attended Harvard at 14 and has an I.Q. of 183. Her biggest problem is that she spends too much time in her own head. Carrie’s cynicism and over-thinking cause her to predict disaster in her future. To help her cope, Carrie’s father (Gabriel Byrne), hires Dr Petrov (Nathan Lane), a therapist. Dr Petrov creates a list of five tasks that Carrie must complete to help her acclimatise to the world outside her apartment. As Carrie pushes herself beyond her comfort zone, her life begins changing in unexpected ways.
Carrie Pilby check the standard indie film boxes. We follow a young emotionally stunted protagonist who feels like an outsider and finds an unexpected romance with a person they clashed with. Carrie Pilby doesn’t separate itself from the cluttered dramedy genre pack. The jokes fall between ok and good, most of the performances are solid but not spectacular, and the plot recycles many genre tropes. If you dislike YA novels you may want to consider giving this movie a pass. Carrie Pilby is a solid watch for dramedy and YA genre fans. This film wouldn’t work without Powley’s magnetic presence pulsating at its core. Powley is a joy to watch, destined to become Hollywood royalty, and she “Carries” the film on her shoulders.
For many, the knack for creating music is as elusive as dunking a basketball. To the musical hacks stuck playing the triangle in a school band, film composers may as well be wizards. For those like myself, a composer’s otherworldly talents seem imbued from the heavens. Score’s director, Matt Schrader, takes away much of the mystique. Schrader’s documentary runs through cinema’s history and spotlights the composers who created movie magic along the way.
Throughout the documentary, Schrader charts the movie scores’ slow evolution. Score explains why we associate classic films with certain musical styles. We learn how traditional European orchestral scores gave way to hard-edged American jazz. Then we see jazz surpassed by curated psych-rock soundtracks in the mid-60’s. Score whizzes over cinema’s first 70 years before it slows down and focuses on contemporary icons like Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, and John Williams.
Each one of these brilliant composers is worthy of their own documentary. One instance stands out. In the scene, Steven Spielberg stands over Williams who is sitting at a piano unveiling a melody. What we’re watching is Williams sharing E.T.’s theme music with Speilberg for the first time. It’s an electrifying moment of pure movie magic, the likes of which are rarely caught on film.
Artists see the world through different eyes than most people. Great composers squeeze magic out of the mundane and Score details how these men and women use the same studio space to achieve different results. Score is an insightful and engaging film because it never bogs down into technical details. The film offers easy starting points for movie lovers curious about cinema’s rich history.
BURN YOUR MAPS
Over the past two decades, the internet’s explosion in popularity transformed the world into a much smaller place. We come across more people, cultures, and communities than ever before. As a result, people everywhere are reaching the same earth-shattering conclusion: where we’re from isn’t always the place we’re supposed to be.
Writer-director, Jordan Roberts’, latest film, Burn Your Maps, takes this concept to a philosophical extreme. The movie focuses on a young American boy who believes his calling beckons to him from half-way around the world. Roberts combines an endearing story, charming characters, with strong performances and crafts a feel-good story that speaks to our current political climate.
Connor (Marton Csokas) and Alise’s (Vera Farmiga) marriage is on the rocks. Caught amidst the emotional turmoil is their son Wes (Jacob Tremblay). Wes is too young to understand his parent’s complicated feelings and old enough to feel their distress. He develops a strange coping mechanism: Wes believes he houses the soul of a Mongolian goat herder. As stress between Connor and Elise destroy tears apart their familial bond, Wes’ spiritual journey may be exactly what the family needs.
Burn Your Maps’ biggest flaw is its predictability. The film settles into familiar feel-good movie territory and doesn’t deviate. Movies don’t pack as much emotional punch when viewers see the ending from a mile away. For many, this won’t be an issue. Some people cry every time they see Titanic despite (Spoilers!!!) knowing the ship sinks. Burn Your Maps’ predictability is a nit-pic that will mostly annoy movie snobs.
Burn Your Maps is a thought-provoking film, capable of inspiring belly-laughs and joyful sobs. In 2017, it’s no longer a given that the life we’re born into is the life we’re meant to live. Roberts broaches this subject with empathy, incisiveness, and class.