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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 17.5%
Average: 2.5%
Pretty Bad: 2.5%
Total Crap: 7.5%

1 review, 34 user ratings

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Haven, The
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by Scott Weinberg

"An honest, funny, and touching movie about friends - made by friends."
4 stars

I was walking down Main Street in Park City, Utah, when a friendly-looking fellow approached me and asked me to watch a movie. Now, anyone who knows me knows that this is a GREAT way to become friends with me, so I asked him when the screening was and promised to return to check it out. I went to go sit and have a soda (the thin Utah air is murder on pothead cigarette smokers like yours truly) and debated whether or not I would actually go see the movie. Luckily for me, I opted to stick to my word and go see the movie...which was showing in a bar.

The friendly guy at the front door was John McLoughlin, actor and co-screenwriter of The Haven. John was selling me on the performance of old-school underrated actor Timothy Bottoms, when I explained that the movie's the thing, and I'd be just as interested if the film contained nothing but unknowns. He then called me a true movie fan and asked in what capacity I was at Sundance.

When I told him I was the world's coolest movie critic, he broke a big smile and replied:

"I really hope you like this movie, but I want you to be honest with me if you don't."

So my old pal Carina (that's Maegsy to you HBS regulars) wedged ourselves into this comfy little tavern and took in The Haven. We compared notes here and there about a few minor issues we had, but the overall concensus between the two of us was that this was a damn solid movie.

Best described as Ordinary People meets Swingers by way of Breaking Away (minus the bicycles), The Haven is a portrait of four longtime buddies, the stresses and struggles they withstand, and the immeasurable importance of friendship. More than once did the screenplay remind me of the way me and my own old-school pals interact, and even IF the movie were not a winner (it is), there are several sequences that will make even the most cynical slacker reminisce fondly over parties and road trips long ago.

Trevor lost his parents in a horrible car wreck a year earlier; Jacob (fondly referred to as Jocko) is a devoted and lovable lug, but a guy who suffers from a minor chemical imbalance that makes his mood swings a bit...extreme; Warren is an intelligent and fiercely loyal friend, one who dreams of success yet strives to remain close to his pals; Christian is an aspiring rocker with a drug problem, though it's obvious that his three friends always come first.

This quartet has been virtually inseparable since grade school (a few moments of which provide some truly funny moments), and now that everyone's just out of college (or of 'just out of college' age) "Grown-Up Life" is looming large on the horizon. Despite the shocking death of his parents, Trevor seems to be making a few worthy strides in his evolution, earning a writing gig for a local newspaper. (It also helps to soothe his suffering that there's a lovely blonde photographer working alongside him.) Christian is plugging away with his music in a series of dingy bars, Warren has the inside track to a few potentially worthwhile professions (though is reluctant to leave his hometown and his three best buds), and Jocko is going nowhere fast - despite an amazing gift for painting.

Sure, if you've seen as many movies as I have, the whole 'four old friends struggling to grow up' theme is far from the newest concept under the sun, but one can overlook a little lack of originality when the end product is so damn satisfying. Andrew Bowen (formerly of the underrated Mad TV) is stunningly strong as Jocko, creating a character that on the surface seems like little more than an affable giant, yet the actor brings a fierce sense of loyalty, a goofy sense of humor, and an overall air of desperate sadness to this role. He delivers easily one of the best 'unknown' performances I've seen in years.

Bowen may be the standout, yet the trio surrounding him contains not one weak link. McLoughlin (Dark Summer) does a great job with a very difficult role, in that it's easy to gloss over the intimacy between friends when you're playing a drug-loving wannabe rock-star. To his credit, McLoughlin never once settles for the maudlin or predictable. Briel DiCristofaro (in his debut feature) gets the lead role, and for the most part hits the ball out of the park. (One sequence in which he and Crider argue before fleeing out into a rainstorm struck me as a more than a bit melodramatic, and this change of pace jarred me from a generally involving movie.) Still, only one misstep in an entire lead performance seems like a damn good batting average. As Warren, Michael Cade (Totally Blonde) deftly avoids being the 'clear-thinking nerd' of the group, though it's obvious that this character is meant to represent the 'brain' of the gang. Simply put, these four work like a symphony together, and I found myself reminded of my own college buddies and the playfully vulgar way we often express our feelings. With lesser actors, this schtick would grow old real fast. Such is not the case here.

Other little nuggets of quality that I noticed include a moody and effective score (by McLoughlin and John Bouy), a sweet and touching performance by Missy Crider (Frailty), and an obvious commitment to recreating the 'guy experience' as it really happens: these guys fight, hurt each other, express their deovtion to one another, wistfully discuss the beloved 'old days', constantly speak to each other in movie quotes, repeatedly pick one another off the mat, and goad each other into succeeding.

Not everything in The Haven ends happily, though the movie's message is clear: we learn something from every experience and every person, regardless of how tragic or painful the lessons may be. If one is lucky enough to find a loyal cadre of compatriots to grow up with, those lessons may be learned with training wheels. For showing that lifelong buddies are about a whole lot more than drinking and womanizing (though those are of course important), McLoughlin and his crew deserve a lot of praise - and their movie deserves to be seen. As of yet, I don't think The Haven has been rewarded with a distributor, but at the very least you'll find it on the video shelves one day.

If you're anything like me (male, 31, in possession of a few friendships over a decade old), make sure you check this flick out whenever the opportunity does arise.

It's not often you get to share a hug with the screenwriter once a movie ends, but that's what happened here. Despite being a cold-hearted and cynical bastard, I was quite moved by The Haven as a whole. This one's rather funny in several sequences, sad and touching in others, and honest all the way through. If one of the more ballsy distributors (Artisan or Lion's Gate) has a look at The Haven any time soon, you can expect to see it before this year is out. One hopes so, anyway. **(Rating note: This movie earns 4.5 stars in my book, yet HBS doesn't 'do' half-stars. Almost always in this situation, I'd bump the rating down to 4 stars, but in this case I bump it to 5. Why? Cuz I liked John and I want his movie to find an audience.)**

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originally posted: 01/19/03 06:25:29
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Slamdance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Slamdance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/16/09 Jonathan Gaspari love this film but cant find it anywhere 5 stars
2/01/09 Ana Sakanassi Absolutely awesome! I love it! 5 stars
12/05/08 Shaun Wallner Great story! 5 stars
3/11/08 Rohit Tears, nostalgia, smile... Everything. Thanks Mr Bowen. 5 stars
10/28/06 Nick Deepest fears exposed in brutal honesty, th integrity of deep friendship and its fragility. 5 stars
11/16/05 rituraj negi absolutely awesome 5 stars
5/29/05 Lucas Very good story about friends 5 stars
4/26/05 Michael Berns I think this is best movei i have ever seen in my life 5 stars
3/01/05 Frenchie Je ne t'aime Jocko 1 stars
2/20/05 Andrre Bowen this is really great movie 5 stars
1/30/05 anne-marie miller i think this film was fantastic and there was so many diffrent emotions used it was fantast 5 stars
10/23/04 young jocko love everyone, great experience 5 stars
10/14/04 passang tshering pasu it made me laugh and cry together 5 stars
7/22/04 Nick C. I was in THIS MOVIE!!!!!!!!!!!! During the Food Fight!!! 5 stars
6/28/04 Nathan Prior Outstanding !!! One of the most emotionally powerful movies of all time. 5 stars
6/27/04 Dj Spirit I like Andrew Bowen ... That's Very Good Story 5 stars
2/18/04 banshee Sentimental rubbish 1 stars
1/31/04 Šarūnas Zenkevičius I am Andrew Bowen fan... 5 stars
12/14/03 Kelly Howe One of the worst movies 2 stars
8/07/03 Mahant the best movie on friendship 5 stars
4/02/03 wishi superb 5 stars
3/31/03 shawngifford it was a very good story 4 stars
3/25/03 Naseer Movies like HaVen are waY too raRE ... 5 stars
3/11/03 amalei e masigla it's totally of the best movies iv seen 5 stars
3/10/03 sohail one of the real cool movies which has gone unnoticed 5 stars
3/01/03 Tan Shi Wei more. definitely more. 5 stars
2/09/03 Dustin Sutton The best movie I've seen in a long time, it's up there with american history x 5 stars
2/04/03 Renee Campesi Amazing. I was so suprised at how good it was. Bowen's performance was so powerful. 5 stars
2/02/03 Busta OK Movie. Not great, but didn't suck. Too much music 3 stars
1/28/03 Kaminoan I thought it sucked 1 stars
1/26/03 Jennifer Modrinski I loved this movie. I love movies and I was amazed at the quality and emotion in the film. 5 stars
1/23/03 Troy J. Ford Same as Scott Weinberg 5 stars
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  17-Jan-2003 (R)



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