Friday, March 11, 2016

Dan Trachtenberg's 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE opens with zero fanfare but lots of surprise

Generally, when a mainstream movie is not screened early for the press, this means the studio wants to hide its latest lemon. Not here. That's the first surprise. The second and more important one comes from the fact that movie audiences were not lambasted with countless and lengthy trailers of 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE in advance of its opening. These days trailers more resemble endless spoilers that tell the entire story and give away plot points that rule out one of the prime enjoyment factors of films: surprise. First-day Friday audiences (along with those, like TrustMovies, who attend the film's first preview screening the night before) plunked their tushies down in seats in near-total mystery concerning just what kind of film they were about to see.

This is a terrific idea, really: giving audiences back the genuine surprise factor that make movie-going such fun. But it is a double-edged sword. At the Boca Raton, Florida, screening last night, the small theater was only one-fifth filled, at most. Is this what not-beating-your-audience-over-the-head-with-every-last-detail gets you these days: no audience? But wait. The audience who showed up appeared to enjoy the film quite a bit. So if word of mouth spreads as it should, the movie, directed (for most of its running time) with low-key panache by newcomer Dan Trachtenberg (shown above), should eventually recoup its cost and maybe do even better than that. (Plot-wise, if not box-office-wise, a sequel is almost guaranteed.)

In keeping with the moviemakers' desires (and with this critic's own standards regarding refusal to reveal a lot of plot), I'll just say that a very good time was had by me and my spouse during this 103-minute movie that thoroughly held our interest, even when, at the end, it goes way over the top. It is always fun -- and, yes, surprising.

This is all the more special considering that the film boasts a cast of basically three people. But the actors -- John Goodman (above), here in role that matches his imposing size and girth; Mary Elizabeth Winstead (two photos above), who continues to be the go-to girl for just about any kind of role; and John Gallagher, Jr. (below), who manages to be funny and charismatic by refusing to push it -- have been chosen wisely and come through with flying colors.

The dialog is smart and believable, the story and screenplay (the several writers here include Damien Chazelle) is, too (for the most part, anyway: our leading lady, who wants to become a clothing designer, seems to morph instead into a superhero by film's finale); and the direction serves the goal. That's all I'll say about this movie that both jumps and mashes genres. From Paramount Pictures, it opens today just about everywhere. Click here to find the theater nearest you.

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