Being welcomed into the fold of IFF Boston volunteers this year affords a cinephile a glimpse at and a hand in the inner-workings of a week-long, 100+ film strong behemoth of a festival that is entirely volunteer-run and completely non-profit. It's a whirlwind to say the least. Among the spoils that come with this territory is carte blanche to enjoy as many these films as your gluttonous little eyes can handle. Never being one for restraint, I've had the pleasure of seeing several fantastic films thus far. Here's a rundown of a few, the rest to be inconcluded with Part 2 in the coming days.
Perrier's Bounty - Ian Fitzgibbon
Perrier's Bounty is an Irish telling of a familiar gangster tale. Michael McCrea (played by Cillian Murphy) owes a great deal of money to a Dublin crime boss (played by Brendan Gleeson), who is tired of waiting to be reimbursed. He sends in his cronies to shake the money out of McCrea, as McCrea tries to make himself scarce. Unfortunately, his quirky, aloof father and a love interest are making his escape difficult. The performances here are generally solid, but I grew particularly annoyed with self-imposed insomniac father (played by Jim Broadbent) and his redemption subplot. Additionally, the sloppy love story here is ineffective by any standards, and seems tacked on by some studio exec. When the film focuses on the gritty cat and mouse chase it hits most of the right marks, but the whole thing felt overstuffed with cliche subplots. Not a good sign when your film is only 87 minutes to begin with.
Cyrus - Mark and Jay Duplass
I don't think I watched the trailer (linked above) for this movie before I saw it, but if I had I probably would have had ridiculous expectations. With that being said, the film still probably would have surpassed them. What starts innocuously as the story of a lonely schlub John (John C Reilly) being dragged to a party by his ex-wife and best friend (Catherine Keener). Completely hopeless romantically, John makes a drunken fool of himself at the party (in one of the funniest scenes in recent memory), spills his guts to anyone who will listen, yet miraculously strikes gold and gains the affection of Marisa Tomei. John comes on absurdly strong and needy, making the audience grimace at the prospect at his inevitable crash and burn, but it doesn't happen. Instead, the story takes the hilarious route of introducing Tomei's 21 year old son Cyrus (Jonah Hill), who is less than willing to share his mother's affection. The tug of war between the equally needy/pathetic men is unpredictable and perfect, and can best be compared to a Judd Apatow film, but even that feels like a disservice to something with this much heart and laughs. If there is a god, this film will be a massive hit.
Winter's Bone - Debra Granik
Winter's Bone, 2010's Sundance Grand Winner (and deservedly so) is adapted from a book of the same name that describes a Missouri teenager who is desperately trying to keep her two young siblings and her incapacitated mother afloat as her drug addict/dealer father is on the run. Having placed her families house up as his jail bond, 17-year-old Ree is saddled with the responsibility of finding her father lest her family be thrown out of their home. Displaying incredible poise and determination in the face of hostile and evasive acquaintances of her fathers, Ree goes to incredible lengths to sift through mountain of lies and half-truths to save her family. The washed out and dilapidated landscape captured by Granik and her crew conveys the eerie mood of a small Ozark town, heightening the grave danger Ree is in as she pokes at some unsavory folks for information. Completely gripping with great performances and fantastic execution.
Down Terrace - Ben Wheatley
Described as a British Sopranos, Down Terrace opens with father and son returning home from a stint in prison, hell bent on finding out those responsible. As the plot starts to take shape, director Ben Wheatley maintains a wry sense of humor, as the two men's bickering is refereed by the woman of the house (when she's not gazing forlornly into the distance). It's not long before the body count begins to rival that of a slasher film, as the two men bludgeon their way down their cast of acquaintances to find the one who wronged them. Needless to say, things take a decidedly dark turn with the characters only leaving their flat to get rid of the bodies. What is most striking about all of the violence is how brutal it is, never glamorized in typical Hollywood fashion with quick cuts and dramatic last words. Bleak and affecting, Down Terrace is a solid entry into the gangster pantheon and that of a supremely dysfunctional family.