The 2019 Twin Cities Film Fest wrapped last Saturday (October 26) after 11 days and more than 120 films. Here’s a breakdown of the best feature films I took in over the course of the festival.
#1 – Gutterbug
Homeless and hopelessly addicted to everything he can get his hands on, Bug (Andrew Yackel), leads a life filled with begging, drugs, and going to punk shows with his like-minded crew of misfits – Jenny (Hannah Mosqueda), Slim (Justin Pietropaolo), and Raleigh (Geoff van Wyck). With his life spiraling out of control, Bug starts looking for a way out by returning to his parents' home, which sets off a tragic series of events. Writer/director Andrew Gibson and co-writer Chris Tobin do a masterful job in creating multilayered characters that make you feel equal parts empathy and repulsion as their story unfolds, and is brought to life by its sparse, but talented cast. Bonus points for the inclusion of local east coast punk bands to further set the
tone of the film.
★★★★1/2 of ★★★★★
#2 – Saint Frances
Fresh off an abortion and sick of her restaurant job, 34-year-old “slacker” Bridget (Kelly O'Sullivan) lands a career upgrade in the form of a summer nanny job for the 6-year-old daughter – Frances (Ramona Edith Williams) – of a biracial lesbian suburban couple. While trying to figure out her own life, Bridget must also learn on the fly how to care for an intelligent, strong-willed youngster. O'Sullivan, who also wrote the film, gave not only what I consider to be the best performance of TCFF, but perhaps of the entire year.
★★★★1/2 of ★★★★★
#3 Jojo Rabbit
Influenced by his experience at camp and by his imaginary friend Adolph Hitler (Taika Waititi), 10-year-old Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) does his best to navigate adolescence while upholding the beliefs of his beloved Nazi party. With a father who is out of the country, and a mother, Rosie (Scarlett Johansson), who doesn't support his beliefs, the task is a difficult one. To further complicate the situation, Jojo discovers a young Jewish girl, Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), living in the family's attic. Having been invited in by Rosie, Elsa blackmails Jojo into letting her stay. Fresh off of its People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, writer/director Waititi's Nazi satire seems poised for a Best Picture run.
★★★★ of ★★★★★
#4 Last Call
Drunk and thinking he's calling a suicide hotline, Scott (Daved Wilkins) inadvertently reaches Beth (Sarah Booth), an evening custodian at a job training center. Sensing the desperation in his voice, Beth talks and listens to what has brought Scott to this point, trying – almost literally – to talk him off the ledge before it's too late. While the story – written by Wilkins and director Gavin Michael Booth – is quite simple, it also draws you in, primarily due to the unorthodox way it's told. Coming in at 1 hour and 17 minutes, the story is told in real time and shown in split screen, featuring both primary characters throughout its entirety. Making it even more impressive is the fact that what you see is one single take. Independent
film allows for experimentation and
risk-taking, which this has in spades.
★★★★ of ★★★★★
#5 Marriage Story
Married couple Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and Charlie (Adam Driver) are getting divorced. From the outside looking in, things appear to be pleasant … or at least as pleasant as possible, given the circumstances. Without a ton of cash or property to split, the only real point of contention is where the former couple will raise their son, Henry (Azhy Robertson). With Charlie’s directing career tethering him to NYC and Nicole’s acting pulling her to LA, things become more difficult, but not unmanageable. That, however, changes when each enlists the services of sleezy attorneys, Nora (Laura Dern) and Jay (Ray Liotta).
The pair must figure out how to end the marriage without destroying each other and their son. The film is full of
excellent performances from its primary
cast, and also benefits greatly from
small, yet entertaining contributions from
Julie Hagerty, Wallace Shawn, and Alan
Alda. ‘Marriage Story’ feels like a serious
Oscar contender – for Best Picture, acting
categories, and writing/directing honors for