Imagine an extended episode of "Girls" with all of the obnoxious characters and abrasive behavior but nary a trace of the wit, intelligence or willingness to make those characters into real and understandable people. Well, it is here in the form of the new indie comedy "Fort Tilden" and if you want this stridently unpleasant film, I assure you that you can have it.The film stars Bridey Elliott (daughter of Chris) and Clare McNulty as Harper and Allie, two monstrously self-absorbed Brooklyn-based millennials who decided to commemorate both the final days of the summer and Allie's imminent departure for a stint with the Peace Corps in Liberia by biking out to the beach at Fort Tilden for a day of fun and sun with a couple of guys they met the night before at a party. Alas, they prove to be monumentally incapable of rising up to the challenge--Harper, who suggested the trip in the first place, doesn't even own a bike--and their attempts to reach their destination prove to be an "After Hours"-like chain of disasters in which they get lost, struggle to score some drugs from an ex of Harper's, spend $200 dollars they don't have on a barrel and watch in mild stupefaction as a guy literally steal one of their bikes right before their eyes.
The press materials for "Fort Tilden" describe it as "polarizing" and for once, they are putting things mildly. The film has received good reviews in some places and even scored the Grand Jury Prize at this years SXSW festival, so it clearly does strike a chord with some people. Alas, I am apparently not one of them and to these eyes, it is perhaps the most obnoxious film to come out in 2015 that doesn't feature Greta Gerwig's name in the credits. Writer-directors Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers have evidently set out to create two of the most annoying characters to ever step in front of a camera and in that regard, they have succeeded mightily. The trick--the thing that the superficially similar "Girls" does so well all the time--is to take those characters and allow viewers to empathize with them despite their misdeeds. This is where the film completely fails to such a degree that by the time it comes to its merciful end, you never want to see Elliott nor McNulty or their venomous "Romy & Michelle" riff again as long as you live.There is exactly one funny line to be had--a disdainful hipster asks Allie if she is going to Liberia "to help people or to look like you are helping people." This is a brutal and brutally funny zinger, to be sure, but it also contains a lot of honest truth as well and if the rest of "Fort Tilden" had lived up to it, it might have been the amusingly cynical takedown of contemporary twenty-something solipsism instead of the borderline torturous experience that it actually is.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 SXSW Film Festival For more in the 2014 South by Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Independent Film Festival Boston For more in the 2014 Independent Film Festival Boston series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2014 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.