Friday, May 23, 2014

Jason goes to SFIFF--Closing Night

Finally, I'm almost to the end. I skipped Wednesday to see my San Jose Earthquakes battle to a rather lackluster 0-0 tie with FC Dallas. Probably would've had more fun at the movies.

But I was back for the Closing Night gala, and the film ALEX OF VENICE. Director Chris Messina has a small but important role as George, the husband and father who is bored and frustrated being the stay-at-home dad so he abruptly walks out on them (which, I suppose, gave his more time to focus on directing the movie.) That leaves Alex (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to struggle with her young son, her aging father (Don Johnson, easily the best thing about the film,) and her work as an environmental lawyer. In the Q&A afterwards, Messina and the co-writers revealed that the first draft of the script had many overlapping stories set in Venice (California, not Italy) before they tightened it up and focused on Alex. Which kind of explains why it feels like there are so many loose ends. Her father's story is my favorite, but doesn't really get an ending (he gets to star in a play, but what exactly is his medical condition and prognosis going forward?) The legal battle (complete with an embarrassingly emotional closing argument) seems to be the main thread, but the massive ethical violation of having an affair with the opposing counsel just sort of...peters out. And her wild-child sister coming to town to take care of her son...well, that story also had potential that never quite got fulfilled.

Don't get me wrong. What was on screen was beautifully shot and mostly very good (the exception being the lawyering parts. I actually rode to the after party with a friend who's a lawyer and he shared a famous saying among lawyers--"If the facts are on your side, pound on the facts. If the law is on your side, pound on the law. And if neither is on your side, pound on the table." She was doing the emotional equivalent of pounding on the table.) I just wanted more--wanted something to wrap up so many of these stories. And it's not like the movie was overlong, it's under and hour and a half. So perhaps a director's cut DVD would fill out the bits I thought were missing. And given that it's Messina's first directing gig (and how often first time directors tend to put too much into their movies instead of leaving too much out) there's every reason to expect great things from him his second and third time out.

And then it was all over except for the after party. I finally had my fill of free Grolsch, hung out with many of the friends I made over the course of the festival, barely missed meeting Don Johnson in the VIP room, did finally meet new SFFS Executive Director Noah Cowan and shake his hand, and finally went home to get a good night's sleep (which I did get, eventually, a few days later.)

Running Time: 87 minutes
My Total Minutes: 362,761
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