SXSW 2015, The Average: ‘7 Chinese Brothers,’ ‘Adult Beginners,’ ‘Just Jim’ and More

SXSW 2015 Film Reviewsxsw-2015-logo

7 Chinese Brothers
Director/Screenwriter: Bob Byington
A man unaccustomed to telling the truth learns to at least describe it. Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Tunde Adebimpe, Eleanore Pienta, Olympia Dukakis, Stephen Root. (World Premiere) (film synopsis from sxsw.com)

OVERALL
The film is almost about nothing, just like the title of the film. Most of the time this doesn’t matter because we get to watch Schwartzman do many Schwartzman things, including acting opposite his real-life dog. There is a very sweet and surprisingly authentic death involving a key character. Besides that moment, when the film ends, you’ll quickly forget about it and move on.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10

 

Adult Beginners
Director: Ross Katz, Screenwriters: Jeff Cox, Elizabeth Flahive
Out of a job after a disastrous product launch, a big-city yuppie retreats to his suburban childhood home, in this heart-warming and hilarious film about crashing hard, coming home and waking up.Cast: Nick Kroll, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale, Joel McHale. (U.S. Premiere) (film synopsis from sxsw.com)

OVERALL
I’m learning to like Kroll. This is a step in the right direction. Overall, it just feels easy. There are many times the transitions or character leaps feel like we missed a scene or two. As a work-at-home dad, it felt like the 3-year-old in the film was more of a device. Plus, there is one side story involving a high-school student that literally doesn’t go anywhere, like they forgot. Thankfully, Byrne and Kroll together are wonderful siblings.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10

 

Tab Hunter Confidential
Director: Jeffrey Schwarz
In the 1950s, Tab Hunter was number one at the box office and on the music charts. Nothing, it seems, can damage his skyrocketing career. Nothing, that is, except for the fact that Tab Hunter is secretly gay. (World Premiere) (film synopsis from sxsw.com)

OVERALL
I didn’t know who Tab Hunter was, now I do. This documentary is nice, but doesn’t truly dive deep. It feels like it’s more about the studio system from years past, then about being homosexual.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10

 

Just Jim
Director/Screenwriter: Craig Roberts
In a small town where people talk to themselves we meet Jim. Sixteen, mediocre looking and frankly quite boring. Things change dramatically when Dean moves in next door. They quickly become friends and set on a journey together to help Jim come of age. Cast: Emile Hirsch, Craig Roberts. (World Premiere) (film synopsis from sxsw.com)

OVERALL
Just Jim is the perfect example of a film that’s pretty good, yet frustrating at times. I definitely will be paying attention to Roberts’ career as a filmmaker, but his acting didn’t resonate with me. The dark turns of the film feel almost dream like, and if that was the intention, it seems like a missed opportunity to smack you in the face with these extreme turns. Thank goodness for the oodles of odd charm Hirsch brings to the role.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10

 

Fresno
Director: Jamie Babbit, Screenwriter: Karey Dornetto
Fresno is a comedy that follows lonely but stoic lesbian Martha (Natasha Lyonne), whose sister Shannon (Judy Greer), a sex addict with no impulse control and a long history of poor decisions, winds up back in Fresno cleaning hotel rooms with her. Cast: Natasha Lyonne, Judy Greer, Aubrey Plaza, Fred Armisen, Jessica St. Clair, Molly Shannon, Michael Hitchcock, Ron Livingston. (World Premiere) (film synopsis from sxsw.com)

OVERALL
Lyonne is fantastic, Greer is OK. I would have guesses that to be the other way around before the film. The film hits a “wacky” level a little too much, like the elephant in the room (a really bad decision that the sisters keep dragging around with them) doesn’t really matter. Plus, it’s a film that suffers from a flash forward that only removes potential excitement or surprise.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10

 

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