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The good, the so-so and the dismal at this year's SXSW

Posted 3:42pm on Tuesday, Mar. 13, 2012

With nearly 150 features and dozens more shorts screening at the South by South Film Festival, it’s impossible to see even a fraction of the wares on offer. The good news is that some of the titles, such as 21 Jump Street (which had a jam-packed screening at the Paramount on Monday night), the Richard Linklater-directed, Jack Black-Matthew McConaughey-starring comedy Bernie (which will screen on Wednesday night), and the much-buzzed-about Indonesian thriller The Raid, will soon make their way into theaters.

Many others will continue travel on the film festival circuit – and a few of these might even make a local stop at the Dallas International Film Festival, which kicks off in April. (A handful of titles, including a couple that are playing at South by Southwest, have already been announced. The full schedule is expected to be released later this month.)

One movie worth remembering from this year’s mix: See Girl Run, which had its world premiere in Austin on Sunday afternoon – a generous-spirited romantic dramedy, directed and written by Nate Meyer and starring Robin Tunney, from TV’s The Mentalist. The movie follows a woman (Tunney) frustrated in her marriage, who takes off to her small Maine hometown with the thought of possibly rekindling things with her ex-boyfriend (the wonderful Adam Scott).

The rudderless thirtysomething has been a common figure in recent movies, especially at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Fortunately, See Girl Run takes the familiar material and invests it with heart and appealingly low-key humor. Meyer’s script doesn’t call attention to itself, almost to a fault – the movie is so modest it might easily be overlooked. But here’s hoping it finds a following; it was one of the most consistently enjoyable movies I saw at this year’s festival.

(Full disclosure: One of the producers of the film, Jesse Sweet, is an old college friend – though I’m pretty sure I’d be singing this one’s praises regardless of its provenance.)

Less successful, but perhaps still worth a look was the comedy frankie go boom, which touches on another theme familiar to American indie moviegoers: sibling rivalry. Bruce (Chris O’Dowd) is a would-be filmmaker, just out of rehab, who has been torturing his younger brother Frank (Charlie Hunnam) for decades by placing him in his “movies.” (A video of Frank’s disastrous wedding proved particularly popular on YouTube.) When Bruce releases a secretly-filmed video of Frank having impotence issues with a new girlfriend (Lizzy Caplan), chaos breaks out.

Written and directed by Jordan Roberts (he made the 2004 Christopher Walken-Michael Caine drama Around the Bend), frankie go boom isn’t nearly as funny as it wants to be. The timing of the gags is off; the humor is way too crude and broad. But the cast is charming, and Roberts has a nice feel for the outlandish and absurd – watch out for Sex and the City’s Chris Noth as a jockstrap-wearing, recovering-addict movie star, and Beauty and the Beast’s Ron Perlman as a cross-dressing computer hacker. frankie go boom ultimately goes bust, but it kept me on my toes, curious to see what would come next.

Finally, no film festival would be complete would at least one turkey – and this year those honors go to Crazy Eyes, starring Lucas Haas as a fabulously wealthy, frequently drunk lout determined to get a quirky woman (Madeline Zima) into bed. (He refers to her through the film as “crazy eyes,” especially strange since her eyes look perfectly normal.) Directed and co-written by Adam Sherman, the movie seems to be aiming to be some sort of darkly comic, Less Than Zero-style portrait of a generation gone rotten. But it’s so tedious, so solipsistic, and so pretentiously “arty” that it soon turns unwatchable. Inexplicably, the movie already has a distributor and be have a limited release this summer – though based on the reaction in Austin, don’t expect to make much of a ripple.

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