STARSHIP FILMS (2015)

 

Director: Joe Grisaffi

 

Starring: Paxton Gilmore, Tyler Tackett, Nicole Elliott, David Simpson, Alyssia Dujmovich, Rebecca Bertot, Eric Schneider, Nicholas Mills

How alone we feel, so unknown it would seem, such little reality exists in our dreams…

 

Lars (Gilmore) is depressed. He’s still young but is dealing with the suicide of his best friend Evan (Mills), his parents bitter divorce, trying not to get beaten up daily by jock Blake (Schneider), having no sense of belonging and, well, life. Writing poetry is the one aspect he can cling to in order to see out the hours in the day, because he sucks at baseball and most other things. Turning to self-abuse and stuck in the spiral of depression, things are bleak for Lars.

 

It ain’t easy being emo.

At school, Lars struggles to fit in with the crowd but does have one ally in Evan’s ‘ex’-girlfriend Rosemary (Elliott). She understands what Lars is going through and is there to support him, even though she too is internally harbouring repressed grief. She watches him struggle through class (and baseball), attempting to lift his anchored spirit where she can, whilst genuinely enjoying his poems regarding his existence. She’s the only real confidante Lars has - at home his father is a drunk dealing with a messy divorce and really offers no good direction, whereas his mother Cindy (Sara Gaston) treats him like a child, whilst all the while having secret affairs. Everything seems forlorn.

 

Everything changes one lonely evening in a children’s playground when, whilst contemplating his life, Lars’ solitude is interrupted by a group of emo’s and Goth’s also hanging out in the playground. Clearly the place to be. Consisting of Head Emo Leonard (Tackett), suicide dreamer Emily (Dujmovich) and couple Donnie (Simpson) and Gina (Bertot), they are a breezy, strange and tight group – they hang together, dance around small sparklers and discuss the minutiae of musical genres – and take Lars under their collective, mascara drenched wing.

 

As Lars and Leonard strike up a friendship, new doors begin to open for Lars which may just pull him through. Blake still wants to beat him up as he is incapable of processing emotion, Rosemary begins to gravitate closer to Lars, but things begin to change for everyone involved as the movie rolls on.

 

Tackling issues of self-abuse, bullying, drugs, suicide and depression doesn’t seem like a great framework for a comedic drama movie to succeed, however the success within Lars the Emo Kid is indeed in the writing. The writing is perfect for the characters and is delivered with laser sharp precision – never at any point did I think, “Hold on, this person clearly wouldn’t say that”. The ‘language’ of the young emo group is captured brilliantly and really has an air of authenticity to it - when this is your movies crucial target, it’s imperative to get this right. There are some great gags scattered throughout also, whether visual or verbal, each one hit the spot (even when someone is simply mocking Lars name…) and the quirkiness of the characters each lent itself to a variety of comedic moments.

 

Not content with simply being a reel of awkwardness and hilarity, the movie has some moments of gravity also. Lars struggles with the memory of his best friend and pours his emotion into a poem in front of his class (reducing them all to tears), conversations with Rosemary allow both to open up about their feelings and mindsets and the same applies to Lars’ parents as their arcs unfold. There are some great, touching instances in the movie and it’s a credit to the writing, direction and performances that these are able to be emotionally resonant within the structure of the movie.

 

Paxton Gilmore is wonderful as the titular character – he has a seemingly natural affability hidden beneath his inelegant, troubled exterior. His blank expressions alone manage to convey a message of isolation and resignation, and his comedic timing is spot on. His interactions with the other characters seemed genuine and really propelled the performance - this is especially true with regards to his relationships with Tyler Tackett and Nicole Elliott. Tackett was great as the confident and carefree Leonard, charming rather than draining and an excellent foil for Lars. Likewise, Elliott delivers a fine performance as the inwardly grieving Rosemary, whose levity works well in contrast to Lars and she excels dealing with various conflicting emotions without ever seeming false. There’s not really a weak performance here, the gang of jocks are hilarious and it’s a great ensemble cast.

 

The movie also looked and sounded great. It’s clear a talented team was put to work here and it shows. The sound throughout is flawless, clear and sharp with decline in its quality. Similarly, the camerawork is very good – again, crisp and creative. There was nothing that took me out of the movie experience.

 

Is this a coming of age story? Kind of. It’s more about how friendships are important to who you are and what you can achieve. Thankfully the movie avoids any saccharine paths and develops with an organic feel, largely due in part to the focused writing and performances. It’s a feel-good movie that emerges from the depths of a deeper message and as the conclusion thunders into the view, you will find yourself enamoured as to where the story takes the characters.

 

Lars the Emo Kid is a fantastic movie crammed with great performances, sharp writing and terrific direction. There’s great comedy throughout and some high emotion also, I highly recommend checking this out and I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

August 25th 2017

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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