My regular movie buddy Howard and I often end up at these tiny little independent things when there's nothing more pressing to see, and they often end up paying dividends. In fact, I can't really remember a time when they haven't. We both really liked this movie as it was going on, and would have loved it if it had only given in a little bit and supplied us with a satisfying ending. But you have to respect that it's just not like--or about--that.
We're in Portland. Doug has just returned from college after losing interest in finishing his forensic science degree. He is moving in with his sister, Gail. For a while the movie continues forth in scenes that slowly flesh out the characters and their relationships while not necessarily pushing any kind of plot forward, thus eluding any attempt of mine to take notes on it!
Eventually Doug gets a job working nights at an ice factory, piling bags of ice into crates and loading them onto trucks. There he meets Carlos, who also does DJ gigs. He lends Carlos a Sherlock Holmes book, and one of the laughs is when Carlos returns it, having loved it, saying "Yeah, Holmes is the pimp." They also meet with Rachel, former girlfriend of Doug's, in town from Chicago. She seems to hit it off with Carlos, but doesn't show to a DJ gig she said she would attend. Carlos shows up at Doug's door, demanding that he get up and investigate. "You're good at this kind of thing," he says. When Doug asks "What kind of thing?" Carlos replies: "Mysteries."
Doug--and you--think it's all bullshit at first. But then, in a really good little moment, you realize that maybe it is serious, and there are more moments that are exciting as you realize that there DOES seem to be a serious mystery going on. And if you read this site at all, you know the twists must be pretty good, or else I would be blabbing about them all over the place. One thing this movies does quite successfully is cool down a lot of the expected excitement you might expect from another film, which helps it ramp up real excitement from fairly slight little twists and turns. What I'm saying is that none of the things that happen here would so much as elicit notice in the middle of a Bourne film, but once they're set against the very convincing and lived-in everyday lives of these Portland slackers, the smallest things become huge zingers.
One aspect of these characters--and the movie as a whole--is it very knowingly acknowledges its similarity to other movie and literature stories. The characters consciously imitate mysteries they have read and noir films they have watched. I read one review that found this very affected and tedious, but for me it worked within the world of the film and was charming. For example, we know Doug is into Sherlock Holmes. He's sitting on the floor trying to think, then he wonders if he might think better if he had a pipe, like Sherlock Holmes uses to help him think. Then he gets one. And finds it doesn't really help him think. To me this added to the air that they're all just playing as they went through the mystery, and it worked to sustain the overall lightheartedness of the entire movie.
The other thing that happened during this movie is that the people behind me were giggling uproariously, and I wasn't really sure what was so funny, but after a while it stared striking me funny, too. The whole thing is just very slyly amusing; the characters are funny, their relationships are funny, the situation is funny... so after a while you just find yourself giggling at the tiniest little things. Which goes a long way toward making the film an overall delightful experience, and makes it so that, while you're sitting there watching the totally amusing climax, you start saying to yourself "I love this movie!"
Then! The ending. I have to kind of respect it in retrospect, but... basically you're anticipating a big moment, a big satisfying moment that would bring all of our characters together and end with a big crowd-pleaser--and then the screen just goes black. It's so deliberate that you have to know it is exactly what was intended, writer / director Katz directing our eyes away from the big moment we expect and saying "No, actually these relationships are the real focus of the movie..." but it can't help but come off as the tiniest bit disappointing right at that moment. But you get over it.
So yeah, it's a tiny little movie, and maybe not something you're going to put right at the top of your list--what with Gnomeo and Juliet out there!--but if you find some extra time it's unlikely you'll be sorry.
Sure! It's a very warm, engaging and funny good time.