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THINGS TO DO (2006)
Published by Film Fanaddict on 2007/5/19 (1230 reads)
Directed by Theodore Beizaire
Review by Aaron W. Graham
Released by: Lifesize Entertainment
Running Time: 85 minutes
Color format: Color
Audio/Subtitles: English - Dolby Digital 2.0
Region Code: 1, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (1.66:1)
16:9 Enhanced: Yes
Special Features: commentary, behind-the-scenes interviews, replica talk show segment, trailer
Trailer Online: Yes
The bane of a certain sort of recent independent films dealing with restless and confused twenty-somethings have been the endless comparisons to the movies of that master of compartmentalizing minimalism and sincere humanism, Wes Anderson. A keen eye toward musical selection is expected, although upon closer inspection some of these parallels don’t bear out, as Anderson usually features classic British Invasion cuts to go along with the carefully picked obscurities, while most of the world-weariness dramadies prefer the jingle-jangle accompaniment of low-key indie rock, such as the use Sufjan Stevens here. Sparingly placed insert shots focusing on meticulous minutiae of an intricate set are also common, along with off-centre, spacey dialogue that can come off as a little too preciously performed and stilted by the less experienced actors usually hired by necessity. Unfortunate as the case may be, some of these assessments hold weight, as in the Canadian produced THINGS TO DO, while other films of young adult emotional stasis are able to turn these surface elements on their heads in order to do something fresh and inventive. It’s a pity this is not one of them.
Adam Stevenson (Mike Stasko, doubling here as co-writer) works in a drab office building in a nameless big city. Wiling away the hours doing repetitious tasks inside a cubicle are not how he wants to spend his life, so Adam ups and leaves for his hometown suburbanite haven. At first, his reasons for departing are not clearly defined, but they’re subsequently explained through a series of flashbacks to a work friendship that ended in a distressing event. Upon his arrival, Adam’s parents are oblivious to his troubles and debilitating crisis, but the chance meeting (and eventual comradeship) of a high school acquaintance in Mac (Daniel Wilson), a scruffily bearded ne’er do well with a relic of an automobile, rejuvenates him to some extent. After Adam receives a loopy sort of logic in the form of a “things to do” check list, courtesy of a Maury Povish-esque talk show (complete with a loudmouth drill sergeant spit-talking a guest into shape), Mac accompanies him on a series of miniscule adventures, such as “making a movie”, “being in an awesome band”, “skydiving”, soapbox derby racing and, of course, rekindling a romance with an old flame from his high school days.
The main problem here may be that Stasko’s charisma is severely lacking, especially in his line readings which are delivered in a peculiarly wounded and agonizing way that it almost makes them inaudible at times. Although this works in the film’s favor in a few crucial scenes (particularly the heartfelt flashbacks to that monochromatic office), his non-presence isn’t enough to carry a film. Daniel Wilson fares much better in the sidekick role, spouting such bizarrely erratic thoughts as being genuinely pissed that the scientific inventions seen in David Cronenberg’s THE FLY haven’t come to pass. Director Theodore Bezaire’s visual style is accomplished for such a low budget production, and it should be noted that his more than capable talent provides good judgment in interspersing of those flashback sequences.
Enhanced by 16 x 9, THINGS TO DO is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 track. No subtitles are present. Shot on Hi-Def Super 16, nighttime scenes are slightly grainier than daylight, which is when the majority of the film is set. In the way of extras, we’re generously given a commentary track with director Bezaire and lead Stasko, of interest only for other similarly minded independent filmmakers. No deleted scenes are located, though the director states that some “slapstick” moments have been cut from the final version; however, the full three-minute faux talk show segment is here. Behind-the-Scenes footage and interviews (13 minutes) round out the disc.
Rigorously affected by being too much like other recent indie sensations and bigger budgeted fare (the DVD cover alone lists GARDEN STATE, NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, and even the NBC television series “My Name is Earl”), THINGS TO DO is an adequate deadpan examination of a twenty-five year old child-man in deep conflict with himself and his surroundings. First time helmer Bezaire isn’t unskilled, but the subject matter has tirelessly been recycled, and we’re ultimately left with the relatively no-brainer theme that we’d all be better off with more satisfying professions or, even more insipidly, a prolonged vacation away from the more difficult aspects of life.
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