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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 7.69%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad46.15%
Total Crap46.15%

2 reviews, 1 rating

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Fort Tilden
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by Jay Seaver

"This trip to the beach is a reach."
2 stars

SCREENED AT INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2014: Comedy's a delicate thing. The intent of "Fort Tilden" is probably that the audience kind of likes its main characters despite them being sort of ridiculous, and yet, the same traits that elicit that reaction can also lead to the opposition reaction: That these characters are frustratingly stupid, but also unsportingly easy targets. Sadly, even though the movie has moments that lean toward the first, I found it was more often mired in the second.

The two girls in question are Harper (Bridey Elliott) and Allie (Clare McNulty), two roommates in their mid-twenties living in a trendy section of Brooklyn. Allie has signed up for the Peace Corps and is about to have a tour in Liberia. Last night, though, they meet a couple of cute guys (Jeffrey Scaperotta & Griffin Newman) and arranged to meet them at the beach. Getting there just turns out to be way harder than they thought.

There are many funny ways for a person to be stymied trying to get from point A to point B in a city and it's outlying environs; I've found dozens just trying to get to work every morning. And while it's certainly fitting for these characters in particular for some to be self-sabotage, the sheer number of times Harper & Allie are diverted or delayed because they saw something shiny or just decided to make half an effort somewhere does not necessarily add up to laughs because a pair of selfish beasts are reaping what they sowed. Instead, it often just says that getting to Fort Tilden is unimportant, even for the characters, and if they don't care about making it to the beach, why should we? It's not like filmmakers Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers give a whole lot of heft to any other themes, such as how Allie & Harper are such close friends about to separate or that they have stretched an extended adolescence to the breaking point. There is a certain amount of effort made at the latter, both via nominal voices of authority on the other ends of their phone calls and where the last act goes, but it's weak and not particularly earned.

On the way, there are gags, and while pointing at self-centered young people being ridiculous and laughing can often feel like attacking a straw man even when it does have some truth to it, there are actually some good bits in here. When Harper & Allie find themselves squared off against someone just as ridiculous, whether it be an overreacting group with a stroller, a drug dealer with whom they have some apparent history, or their other "friends", the combined absurdity is generally enough to make the scene work, and there are some jokes thrown in where other movies would coast (like a 911 call that isn't just calm and professional) that are nice surprises. Rogers & Bliss just go to "stupid lazy Williamsburg trust-fund hipsters" too often, and that just isn't funny enough on its own.

For all that their characters are often underwritten, it should be noted that Bridey Elliott and Clare McNulty are pretty good here, and certainly worth keeping an eye on in the future. Elliott has real skill at making Harper blithe and often unpleasant in a variety of ways without making the character grating; you can see how, despite often being selfish and immature, one might like having Harper around for more than her daddy's checkbook and that there is a real human being in there (aside: would anyone that age actually be using a literal checkbook?). While she's showing fairly constant medium-intensity wastage, McNulty turns her game up as the end approaches and Allie starts to emerge from Harper's shadow and maybe start considering her situation. She manages awkward introspection well enough that the character doesn't have to talk things out, and it's not far from that to being the embarrassed butt of some of the movie's better running gags. It's hardly their fault that they were saddled with a picture that doesn't give them much chance to make their characters interesting until too late.

It certainly seems to be within their capacity, and one the movie is over, what the filmmakers were trying to accomplish its clear and neither the idea nor the cast is the problem. The wacky antics just aren't funny enough, and the process of maturation that they should be covering isn't meaty enough to make up for it.

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originally posted: 05/09/14 13:15:48
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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.

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11/06/15 Have u So beautiful and pleasant, in love with 4 stars
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  14-Aug-2015 (R)



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