Tuesday, July 26, 2011

GOOD NEIGHBORS opens--Jacob Tierney's naughty, black "crimedy" from Canada

Last year Canadian writer/director/actor Jacob Tierney, gave us a mostly unheral-ded but fun little social/political comedy called The Trotsky (my review is here). This year he's back with another small film that, though it stars two good "Trotsky" actors, is a world away from the sweet and giddy joys of the earlier movie. That said, Tierney's new GOOD NEIGHBORS (ironic title!) arrives packed to the brim with some dark delights of its own.

"It's a terrible world we're living in," notes the inspector who pays a visit to the apartment house in which these good neighbors reside. And so it would certainly seem. Tierney, shown at right, has filled his film with bizarre and discombobu-lated subsidiary characters -- including some terrific cats you could die for -- but it is his three central characters who really seal the deal. There's a the goofy, can't-shut-up newcomer (Jay Baruchel, below, right), the angry-all-the-time young woman (Emily Hampshirebelow, center) for whom he carries a noticeable torch, and the actively unpleasant, cold-as-ice fellow (Scott Speedman, below, left) who becomes the sort of ringmaster to the goings-on. Let's call them the twit, the snit and the shit.

Mr. Tierney has a very interesting visual plan for his film (the cinematography is by the great Guy Dufaux: Stardom, Léolo, Jesus of Montreal), so Good Neightbors looks quite elegant-on-a-budget and is generally great fun to watch. The music is well-chosen, too. Set up into sections that are titled by the month we're in (it's all fall and winter, cold and colder) the movie divides basically into set-up, connection and climax.

The less said about plot the better, but I guess it won't hurt to know that a serial killer is loose in the city and that our three friends and their neighbors are all interested in this fact. Where the movie goes -- and how -- is bizarre and ugly. And yet there's a layer of very dark humor over the proceedings, and a sense, almost, of a kind of exercise going on here.

This sense we get of the author/filmmaker pulling strings has a dual effect. It keeps you distanced and less invested emotionally, so that you can chuckle during some of the nasty stuff that might ordinarily make you blanch. On the other hand, why should we care about any of these people? Finally, we don't. Tierney has adapted his screenplay from the novel Chere voisine by Chrystine Brouillet, so perhaps there was more real feeling within her pages than appears on screen.

Still, the performances are fine within this rather circumscribed framework: Baruchel (below, left) is gloriously goofy, Hampshire (above) finds all sorts of original ways to be annoyed, while Speedman (two photos above) is cold and sexy. There is plenty here to keep you glued, including two striking murder set pieces, one seen at a great distance, another up-close-and-very-personal. Like the inspector says, it is a terrible world. Thank god, it's only a movie, the black-comedic heart of which beats ice-cold.

Good Neighbors, 96 minutes long and from Magnolia Pictures, opens this Friday, July 29, in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Sunset 5, and in New York City at the Quad Cinema.  For other playdates, cities and theaters, click here. As with many Magnolia-released movies, this one, too, is playing via VOD. Click here to learn how you can get it -- and other titles.

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