Friday, April 22, 2011

DVDebut: Drake Doremus' SPOONER sports first-class perfs from Lillard and Zehetner

Having been a big fan of actor Matthew Lillard (ever since Serial Mom, Hackers and the original Scream) and director Drake Doremus (since last year's interesting Douchebag), I approached SPOONER, the 2008 collaboration of these two, with both expectation and trepidation.  No theatrical release, though it played a bunch of U.S. festivals during  2009 (picking up some awards and fans en route), the film has now gone straight to video, where, if history be any guide, it may languish unheralded. Don't let this happen: watch, please, and herald.

The movie is a small one, delicate and a little odd -- thanks to its main character, Spooner, who seems, well, socially challenged, if not slightly "slow." As played by Mr. Lillard (above), in what is hands-down the best role of his career so far, Spooner is so sad and likable: a big, vulnerable, hulky (and, yes, hunky) kid, whom the actor imbues with such genuineness and truth that you are in his corner from first moment onwards.

You worry that he may be more than just socially inept, and so may not be the possible mate for the girl he comes quickly but believeably to care for. As played by Lillard's acting equal in every way, Norah Zehetner (above), the pair meet sweet (but not cute) and begin an odd relationship that seems just possible -- thanks to these two actors' ability to connect and get some quirky chemistry going despite some misgivings on both their own and our part. Ms Zehetner is so adorable-without-pushing-it that, were there any justice, she would be this country's Audrey Tatou.

Based on a story by Doremus, Jonathan Schwartz and Lindsay Stidham (with the screenplay by Ms Stidham), the dialog is efficient and sometimes quite good -- between the two leads, between Spooner and his parents (very well played by Christopher McDonaldbelow, right, and Kate Burton, below, left), and between Spooner and his boss (a nasty used-car maven brought to skeevey life by Shea Whigham, above).

Occasionally, the director gives us a lovely visual composition (as below), but generally Doremus' direction is as un-pushy as the script calls for, leaving things clear for his capable cast to do its job.

 Which they do. And nobody -- not screenwriter, director, or actors -- take anything a step farther than it needs to go.  You worry that someone will, but no: the finale is as lovely and real as all the rest, and you finish this short, sweet film on a cloud of good will.

Spooner, from Maya Entertainment (running time 83 minutes), made its DVD debut this past week and is available for sale or rental via the usual suspects.

2 comments:

Xian said...

Would be willing to see this movie just for Christopher McDonald. I love that guy.

James van Maanen, said...

Thanks, Xian. McDonald is very good in this, as he always is, and he and Lillard bear enough of a resemblance to make their father/son roles seems on the mark.

I went to your site and left a comment. You have an interesting, open attitude, which I think I'd like to follow. And since you don't post all that often, this makes it easier. Keep it up!