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My Effortless Brilliance [Import]
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From Lynn Shelton the award-winning director of HUMPDAY comes another intimate, intelligent and relentlessly honest comedy/drama about the unspoken intricacies of male friendship. Eric (Sean Nelson of the Seattle band Harvey Danger) is a semi-successful city novelist whose selfish behavior drove his best friend Dylan (Basil Harris) to move to the backwoods of Eastern Washington. But when Erik arrives at Dylan s tiny cabin in an attempt to reconnect, the two will spend a weekend exploring the jealousies, egos, awkwardness and often-hilarious truths about what makes men bond. Calvin Reeder and Jeanette Maus co-star in this acclaimed indie bromance largely improvised by the cast that Toronto Screen Shots calls extremely real and so gorgeously shot that you ll feel like you re tagging along on Eric s weekend in the�country.
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Also Director Shelton is clearly more interested in Male Psychology in itself and the ways in which a nature-setting might bring out character particularities, rather than nature as stark elemental contrast to the human tragi-comedy as Reichardt would seem to have it.
The film begins as a minor, rather voyeuristic, character study of the main character--a zeitgeisty fiction writer who became a literary sensation with his first work 'My Effortless Brilliance' and is now--years later--in the throes of another (actually third) book. But very soon we move from this cloistered world to the great outdoors--hardly a realm within our writer's comfort zone.
You can safely disregard the better part of the Amazon product description above, especially when it informs us that "the two will spend a weekend exploring the jealousies, egos, awkwardness and often-hilarious truths about what makes men bond." 'Dinner with Andre' meets 'Iron John' this ain't. The characters do not really explore or discuss anything but are virtuosos of ironic and evasive small-talk, frequently funny, and full of that species of wit that manages to derail seriousness--for if there is a running theme here it lies in the fact that past behavior haunts their reunion and hovers about their conversation as steadily as an elephantom in the room.
Only four humans appear--it is essentially a two-man show with able if apparently random support from a third. I might as well say that the thing will likely strike many as pointless and unpopcorn. But it goes well with beer and plum brandy or some other impairing substance since nothing else can explain how a conversation can move from a critical appraisal of Charles Bukowski to Liv Tyler's ass with effortless brilliance.
And only a Blair witch could turn an elephant into a cougar...
The special features include a twelve minute behind the scenes with lots of interesting input by director Shelton on her method, eleven minutes of deleted scenes, and a relaxed and revealing audio commentary that features almost everyone involved in the film.
The story, what there is of one, is really secondary to the actors riffing off one another. A self-involved novelist has alienated his closest friend. Two years later, they meet up again for a few days of male bonding in the woods. That's it. If you need more high concept plotting, you're going to have to go elsewhere. There is some fish out of water comedy as the city boy adapts to the wild, some discussion of literature, plenty of drinking, a bit of wood chopping, and a delightful cougar hunt. What is special about "My Effortless Brilliance" (aside from the title which I might steal for my autobiography) is the verbal interplay. The two guys get past their standoffishness and start to embrace the casual pattern of friendship that is never forgotten. Sean Nelson and Basil Harris have a relaxed chemistry and when an delightfully intense Calvin Reeder (as a real outdoorsman) joins the team, the comic improv is satisfyingly goofy and entertaining.
The specific reason for the two year heterosexual break-up is never discussed in detail, and I thought that decision was inspired and realistic. What was more troubling, however, was that I never really understood how or why these two guys were friends in the first place. They have little in common aside from a playful banter--so I just had to take it at face value. Fun, yet ultimately superficial (largely for the reason I just mentioned), "My Effortless Brilliance" is a solid work by a director just finding a voice. I will watch out for Lynn Shelton because I like what that voice has to say. KGHarris 9/10.