It has been a bit stormy and cloudy around here, which translates to movie-watching weather. There have been a few interesting viewings this week, courtesy of Netflix instant-streaming. My favorite was an understated indie from Matthew Lillard (yes, that Matthew Lillard) called Fat Kid Rules the World. Awkward, overweight teen Troy (convincingly played by Jacob Wysocki) is recruited by a spazzy drop-out named Marcus for a new punk rock band. Marcus is a chronic user of both people and pills, and Troy is initially reluctant to step outside of his comfort zone of computer games and quiet over-eating to join up with this unpredictable and shady character. But he soon agrees to be the drummer in Marcus’ band, and the two unlikely partners turn out to be exactly what each other needed.
This is Lillard’s directorial debut, and I really liked it. It’s well-paced and well-written, heartfelt without being sentimental. Wysocki is perfect in this role. Anyone who had a tough time in high school will relate to his cast-down introvert character. And hell, drumming is awesome. It’s very satisfying to watch an awkward young man find his own beat (sorry) by learning the drums. Just as the (also underrated) movie The Visitor (re)kindled my love for hand-drums, this movie made me want to go out and buy a kit. And one more neat thing about Lillard’s film, it was largely funded through Kickstarter donations, which I can only hope signals a new trend of viewer-supported media arts.
Switching gears a bit, I saw a sweet Italian film from director Silvio Soldini called Bread and Tulips, which follows a middle-aged housewife as she makes a life-changing decision to rediscover herself in Venice. Left behind by the tour bus during a family vacation, Rosalba Barletta (played by the adorable Licia Maglietta) decides to accept a ride from a friendly stranger rather than wait for her disgruntled and unappreciative husband to pick her up. Several rides later she finds herself alone in Venice, staying in the home of a charming but depressed waiter and getting a job at a florist shop. As plots go, it is nothing mind-blowing, but it’s the characters that make you smile. This is a great watch for fans of Italian romantic-comedy, a film of sweet humor and the unexpected courses life can take when we let it.
Lastly, I watched an interesting Chinese movie titled Tai Chi Zero. It’s an action / kung-fu flick with a definite steampunk influence, and made in a style that approaches something like a live-action comic book. The plot is pretty derivative (possibly on purpose), and the acting is nothing amazing, but the visual effects and fight choreography are absolutely spectacular. There are no dull moments, and a surprising amount of funny. This could be a fun and unique option for movie night. And bonus points just for being steampunk kung-fu, a genre which, if it didn’t exist before, certainly does now.