Friday, August 23, 2019

An energized, funny fever-dream of a movie-- Mikhanovsky & Austen's GIVE ME LIBERTY

I'm not certain I have ever seen a film with more uncorked, knock-your-socks-off energy than that exhibited by GIVE ME LIBERTY, the new made-in-Wisconsin movie from co-writer (with Alice Austen) and director Kirill Mikhanovsky. That energy is so consistent and contagious -- yet somehow not overly insistent -- that it not only disarms you but absolutely pulls you into its all-embracing humor and, finally, emotion.

Mikhanovsky, shown at right, has not exactly come out of nowhere (he was a co-writer on one of last year's most interesting narrative/documentary mashes, Gabriel and the Mountain), but his work here as director/co-writer seems to TrustMovies to be something that he will not easily equal again. His film is often that extraordinary.

Give Me Liberty's "plot" begins with a very long, constantly interrupted bus-ride in which the driver, Vic (a handsome newcomer blessed with quiet charisma, Chris Galust, shown below, right), must bring various special-needs patients to and from their destination.

His passengers, this time, are both expected and not so, with the latter providing much of the movie's grand energy, charm and humor. These, some of whom are shown below, are a bunch of Russian emigres, late for the burial of a dear friend, who cadge Vic into giving them the necessary lift. (There is evidently a large Russian Jewish community in Wisconsin, of which Vic and family are part.)

The film is set in and around a large Wisconsin city on a day when street protests are taking place -- which make the usual travel routes suddenly off-limits and of course add to the film's energy, convulsions, politics and fun. There is one passenger here -- a young lady named Tracy (played by another newcomer, Lauren "Lolo" Spencer, shown above, center, and below) -- whose beauty, needs and problematic situation attract both Vic and us.

The one passenger who really charms the pants off us, however (even as he lies, cheats and steals a bit), is a younger Russian emigre named Dima (a knockout of an actor, Maxim Stoyanov, below), who would be a shoo-in for Best Supporting Actor nomination, if the Academy ever paid proper attention to movies like this one. Mr. Stoyanov is giving what is likely to be the performance of his life; you will not want to miss it.

How all these people -- and a few others I won't have  time to go into -- get where they're going, along with what they do, once they arrive there proves marvelous, and often as moving as it is amusing. We get family scenes, traumatic and hilarious; dancing and singing; artwork that is a beautiful as it is simple; and a wrap-around beginning and ending that offers up the film's most  endearing and moving character, a bed-ridden friend of Vic who provides him and us with some wonderful thoughts and ideas.

Give Me Liberty gets so much so right that I suspect you will forgive its occasional repetition and a running time that's just a tad too long at 111 minutes. When it is working full-throttle, which would be most of its duration, it is so dynamic that you can't -- hell, you won't want to -- look away. And by the by, this is also a bring-us-together movie like you have most probably never seen. It defines diversity without even trying.

From Music Box Films and one of this distributor's most unusual offerings, the movie opens today, Friday, August 23, in New York City at the IFC Center and Brooklyn's BAM Rose Cinema. Next Friday, August 30, look for it in the Los Angeles area at Laemmle's Monica Film Center, Playhouse 7 and Town Center 5.  The film will hit South Florida on Friday, September 13 at the Coral Gables Art Cinema, the Savor Cinema in Fort Lauderdale and the Cinema Paradiso in Hollywood. To view all currently scheduled playdates, cities and here and then scroll down to click on Theatrical Engagements.

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