Sumdance | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Sumdance

Three films, one day. That's Sumdance (especially when waitlists are involved)

What to say about Spooner, except that it's perfect? Spooner is the off-beat romantic comedy Garden State was trying to be (no offense, Zach Braff), and it couldn't be more representative of what Slamdance is about: a first-time feature director, an talented leading lady who, up until now, has only crossed our radar in bit parts (Eden McCain in Heroes, Lainey in Everwood and Laura in the movie Brick), and a writer standing proud, up front with cast and crew during a Q&A, getting the shout-out that all writers deserve and few receive. Spooner is the story of used car salesman Herman Spooner (Matthew Lillard), the kind of endearingly clueless 29 year-old that hops a desk to prop up a leaking 20 foot inflatable gorilla, describes his parents as "pretty awesome," goes to his backyard fort to think things over and never plans to move out of his childhood bedroom. Except that in a few days he's 30, so his parents have made a plan for him. They love him. This is why they change the locks.

Spooner is about to get canned over a low sales quota (he's the kinda guy that hates selling nice people crappy cars), and things are looking grim when, the day before his birthday, he stops roadside to help a damsel in distress. Rose (Norah Zehetner —bearing an uncanny onscreen resemblence to Amelie, and in person, reminding me of Winona Ryder''s pixie stage), is a twenty-something bartender who wants to do something "monumental" with her life. In two days she's leaving to teach English in the Philipines. But first, Rose and Spooner spend a single evening together, and for both characters and audience, it's like hitting the "refresh" button on the universe. What more could you ask a movie to be?

BTW, I mentioned Crossroads to the writer, Lindsey Stidham, and the director, Drake Doremus, and they seemed into the idea. Stay tuned, Jackson.

I watched squeaky-clean Spooner after Finding Bliss, which made perfect sense, because after getting down and dirty, you usually shower, right?

I suspected I would enjoy this film when, before planting my butt, I had to remove the complementary tube of Astroglide from my seat. Executive produced by its star, Leelee Sobieski, as Jody Balaban, Finding Bliss follows a shiny film school graduate to LA to pursue her dreams. But when Jody reaches the City of Demons, she discovers that the most lucrative industry is in flesh. I think this may be an unfortunately common circumstance. I knew two of these arthouse-turned-grindhouse hopefuls (an editor and a cameraman), and I barely made a year in LA. The film is supposed to be a feminist take on a controversial industry (at least, that's how the Q&A billed it), but it was actually more romantic comedy than anything overtly inquisitive. And Leelee's nude scenes, which garnered so much press prior to release, seem to have been cut from the actual film. Or at least, I'm having a hard time recalling any of Leelee's lesser known body regions, although Finding Bliss does deliver a complimentary full-frontal of Jamie Kennedy, who can apparently wrap his member, around his wrist and smile for the camera (this got cut as well, but it was a popular Q&A anecdote). And there was a bit part for Ron Jeremy, so I think things were well (un)covered in that area, although maybe not so much for Jody Balaban.

A bit of a frigid lady, Jody was burned in a sexual relationship early on and is unwilling to go there again. This bit is inadequately explained so that, the entire rest of the movie, I wondered what really happened to make Jody so uncomfortable that she can't bring herself to touch a dildo without cringing. Back in college, she wrote what is supposed to be a killer screenplay, based on the two heads—how men think with one, and women with the other—and decides to make her movie after-hours at the porn studio. (Though the script won the highest honor in Jody's NYU graduating class, the film within the film comes across as lame, lame, lame. I guess we're supposed to use our imaginations, although overall, Finding Bliss doesn't leave much to the?) Circumstances conspire to distract Jody from her goal, including the fact that she can't keep her mind out of the gutter (I mean really, could you?) and her righteousness to herself.

I don't want to spoil the ending so I'll leave you with some key questions (no, that last question was not key)—is Jody able to pull it together and achieve her auteuristic dream? Will Jody ever again have sex? (Will Jody ever have sex with her hot porn-exec boss?) This film's not quite steamy ticket I expected, but it's still pretty (adult) entertaining.

Sorry Jackson, but I gotta break...coming soon...Don't Let Me Drown....

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