Saturday, April 13, 2013

On DVD: BOB'S NEW SUIT: Alan Howard's festival-friendly film is a sweet, smart find

The first surprise of BOB'S NEW SUIT, the film written and directed by Alan Howard (shown below) is that the movie is narrated, not by the titular Bob, but by his new suit. Yes. And it's a stylish Italian model who speaks with the proper accent (no credit is given for the narra-tion, but that voice is quite delightful) and has a lot of clever things to tell us along the way. The suit introduces us to Bob and the rest of the tidy ensemble of characters (each of whom helps bring the movie to fine life) and then explains how it figures importantly in this story.

The story, by the way, is similar in one aspect to Robert Redford's just-released The Company You Keep. A theme that both movies deal with is how the past impinges on the present in terms of a Weather Underground type from the 1970s who was involved in an unintentionally violent event and thus had to assume a new identity to escape the law. The event, character and ramifications are given their weight here: Justice, or what passes for it, must be served. But while the movie itself is about a number of other characters and things, it's the idea of identity -- what this means and how one comes to terms with who one really is -- that counts most.

Mr. Howard's style is slow (but never boring) and sweet, and his characters are tremendously appealing. If, stylistically, he mostly points and shoots, he also possesses the wit to make that suit his narrator, and to assemble a cast of actors who are very good and quite pleasant to view.

Bob of the title (Hunter Bodine, above) is a gardener/handyman living is near-bliss with his girl, Jenny (Hayley DuMond, below), to whom he has just proposed.

Bob's got a swell mom and dad (newcomer Suzie Bodine and John Bennett Perry, both below),

a smart, caring sister (Shay Astar, below, left) going through her own identity crisis, while Jenny has a alcoholic mom ( Robyn Peterson) whom she's written off for good.

There is also the sleek, svelte owner of the salon (Jenny Shimizu, above, right) where Bob's girl works and for whom his sis does the books, and finally Bob's not-too-bright cousin (Charlie Babcock, below, right), who concocts a not-quite-legal scheme that ensnares nearly everyone.

The movie has no villains, just folk who make some bad decisions. I like that because it removes the either/or mentality upon which so many movies insist, forcing us to grapple with right and wrong based on what has actually happened rather than on prejudged notions and left or right political leanings. Mr. Howard's view of the world is a surprisingly benign one, I suspect, so his movie is what you might call a feel-good-with-consequences kind of experience. If only things could work out so gently and sweetly.

It turns out that the movie-maker was 67 years old when he made this, his first film, a couple of years back. So, while there is a kind of amateur quality -- not bad, just "beginner" -- to certain aspects of it, there is also a maturity here, along with genuine kindness and hope. I'd be happy if Mr. Howard hands us something else soon. Meanwhile, take a chance on this little movie, which I can maybe best describe via a word I haven't used in awhile: "dear." Simply to learn what happens to our narrating suit should make your watch more than worthwhile.

Bob's New Suit, from Breaking Glass Pictures and running  97 minutes, is available now on DVD  for sale or maybe rental (if only: you can save it to you Netflix and Blockbuster queues but if either will ever actually order it, who knows?) Fortunately, the film has also been made available via VOD just this week....

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