Among the lessons from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival — the annual celebration of independent film in Manhattan — is that everything old can be new again when in the hands of thoughtful filmmakers. Some features of the festival, in fact, offer new approaches to familiar movies tales. With online and on-demand delivery, the Tribeca magic lives all year long, as we look at three features from this year’s festival.
The Bachelor Weekend offers a deft reinvention of the standard movie tale of a soon-to-be-married man’s last moments of bachelor life. While Sideways and The Hangover offer traditional Hollywood takes on this topic, the Tribeca selection travels to Ireland for a fresh view of this milestone in any married man’s life. Rather than focus on a bridegroom’s second thoughts, final wishes or group-generated debauchery, John Butler’s quiet film explores the layers of emotional connection that such a happy event can reveal among friends. While the Hollywood tales may go for quick laughs, often associated with bodily functions, Weekend makes us think about what we share, deny and willingly explore about ourselves and with our closest friends. Butler pierces beneath the comic surface of the situations to show how friends can redefine how to support each other. Look on-line and on-demand for this funny and thoughtful film.
Like many comic actors, Robin Williams tries now and then to play it serious, often with mixed results. While he won an Oscar for his supporting turn as a therapist with a tough skin in Good Will Hunting, he disappointed when he tried to portray darker characters in One Hour Photo and Insomnia. For Williams, who is also trying to rediscover his sitcom roots with The Crazy Ones on television, the independent drama Boulevard offers an opportunity to explore layers of his craft he seldom gets to reveal. In a performance of surprising subtlety, Williams abandons his traditional comic persona to portray a man tormented by secrets he has denied for years as he walks through the steps of a life he pretends to live. Not until a chance meeting with a rootless young man does Williams’ character confront the realities he hides from himself, his friends and his wife. With strong support from Kathy Baker, as a woman who lives with her own resignation, Williams reminds us that beyond the man who makes us laugh lives a man who can touch us as well.
While films often focus on young people facing life-changing situations and choices — including several at this year’s festival — Beneath the Harvest Sky refuses to follow the Hollywood formula of resolving loose ends in convenient conclusions. Written and directed by Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly, the film invites us into the world of Casper and Dominic, two boyhood friends who, as their high school days wind down, dream of when they will leave their small town in rural Maine to explore a world that may offer financial and emotional promise. But issues can get in the way of dreams, especially challenges at school, confrontations with family, sensitivities with girlfriends, and choices that can be destructive. How these friends try to address their challenges — with little available support except from each other — reminds us how fortunate we are when, with our families and friends, we experience real support from people who listen and help. Gaudet and Pullapilly keep the film credible with strong performances from Emory Cohen and Callan MacAuliffe.
Each spring, the Tribeca Film Festival celebrates the voice of the independent filmmaker. Now, with on line and on demand delivery, that magic continues all year.
(The Bachelor Weekend runs 94 minutes; Boulevard runs 88 minutes; Beneath the Harvest Sky runs 116 minutes. While these films do not yet have MPAA ratings, their content is not appropriate for viewing by young children.)