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3rd Street Blackout
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by Jay Seaver

"Gets up to a bit of fun in the dark."
3 stars

I don't think "3rd Street Blackout" made it to theaters (well, a few theaters) before anything with a more somber take on Hurricane Sandy, but this goofy little thing coming along at about the same time is sort of appropriate - while it was a mess that caused a lot of upheaval, it's also something where people just went about their business as best they could afterward, and that business was occasionally shenanigans, and amusing ones at that.

In this case, Mina Shamkhali (Negin Farsad) has barely arrived home at the apartment she shares with boyfriend Rudy Higgins (Jeremy Redleaf) from giving a TED Talk when the power goes out in Manhattan, and as highly-connected twenty-first century people, that's thrown them a little more than maybe it would have their parents. The party they have to finish off their perishable food on the second night of the blackout has an unexpected guest - Nathan Blonket (Ed Weeks), a venture capitalist who offered Mina a lot more than research funding, driving Rudy to bail for Brooklyn with his hacker friends Ari (Jordan Carlos) and Christina (Katie Hartman).

3rd Street Blackout may not be the nerdiest movie you'll ever see, but it's authentically so, full of people who are often awkward and bizarre but well-meaning rather than typical romantic leads with some atypical references sprinkled into the dialogue. It's the modern-day form of nerdery that's loud and confident, full of trash-talk and often joyfully vulgar because the folks involved don't have to worry about how they look outside their tribe.

It's the ladies who get some of the most enthusiastically crude material, to the extent that the script is almost entirely flipped - Negin Farsad's Mina is the one whose tendency to blurt things out and make less-than-great decisions drives the plot forward and also supplies the movie with a lot of its jokes; she makes Mina confident enough in who she is and what she knows to wander into situations where her tendency to second-guess herself can make things much sillier. Jeremy Redleaf plays Rudy as more grounded for a complement with Mina, although he's got a fear of success that keeps him from being too composed a contrast. The pair (who also wrote and directed the film) share a nerd-next-door charm and a quick but not disparaging wit, so that even the jokes that don't land don't hold things up.

They've surrounded themselves with funny people to work with, which always helps. Janeane Garofalo and John Hodgman, being the best-known comics in the cast, get good poster placement but are each mostly condoned to a couple of early scenes, but they're good for setting a tone while the audience is still getting to know Mina and Rudy. And when the movie splits them up, it's able to reintroduce a lot of people who had only been seen briefly: Katie Hartman is gloriously abrasive as Christina, although she could easily be too much without Jordan Carlos as a cheerfully dorky best friend. Phyllis Somerville's old lady next door is just treat enough, a curmudgeon that is still living in the present rather than looking back, and Ed Weeks gets a fair number of laughs out of being suave eye candy.

They are, truth be told, kind of placed in the middle of a story where not a whole lot happens, which is fine for this sort of comedy. Farsad and Redleaf come from stand-up comedy and internet video, and they build their movies out of small segments that are funny little bits that maybe don't exacly build on each other to the point where the film reaches a climax. The decision to jump back and forth in time, especially early on, doesn't always work out, either.

Overall, it's a fairly likable hour and a half whose jokes mostly work and which manages to have its characters play against type in interesting ways without forcing itself too far out of the mainstream. It's foul-mouthed but friendly, which is a nice combo to pull off.

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originally posted: 05/14/16 15:20:14
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival For more in the 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2015 Austin Film Festival series, click here.

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