My favorite narrative film from SXSW seems to have settled out on this eccentric feature debut from the Brothers Nee. Aaron and Adam Nee should have a wonderful career ahead of them; I hope they’ll continue to do for brotherhood teams what the Coen Brothers have given us to date. (If not more.)
Their film is an original New York tale of quirk and happenstance—a driven-yet-hapless poet who seeks his never-questioned destiny in the Big Apple: namely, publication of a tiny pocket notebook with many scribbles and two brief poems of obvious brilliance and importance. Calvin Wizzig borrows liberally from Salinger’s Holden Caulfield (including a tender series of wisdom-espousing letters to a younger sister back home), but while similarly self-absorbed and unsympathetic, the character of young Calvin is less cynical and somehow more likeable, especially in the performance of Adam Nee, who delivers some of the film’s best snippets in the form of narrative thoughts zipping through the character’s head. (e.g. “maybe she’s getting her nails washed…”) I’m normally no fan of excessive narration, but the overdub of Calvin is so completely in character with the film itself, the unaware diatribe ends up being all charm.
With similar (yet different) charisma, the soft-spoken duo were equally sweet and cordial off-screen. They wear the kindness and heart of their film on their sleeves, even through the disguise of well-crafted “director” personalities. (With Aaron in his black soft felt pseudo-cowboy hat, and Adam in his oversized specs, greasy hair under tuque, and scruffy five o-clock shadow, they are as well art-directed as the vibrant color finesse of their film.) Even if they can’t sell The Last Romantic, they should be able to easily sell themselves with such genuine charm.
Last year I lamented the fact that the best film I saw at SXSW (Four Eyed Monsters) was one of the least likely films to get acquired and distributed. Unfortunately, though the Brothers Nee have crafted a far more visually impressive feature, the content is equally cerebral—intelligent enough to cause me doubts of fame and fortune by the narrow standards of Hollywood. (Considering the last I heard of the Four Eyed Monsters creators, a sad thought indeed.)
I only hope the Brothers Nee are at least successful enough—by whatever measure—to start working on film number two soon enough. I’d really hate to be deprived their obvious genius; that would be a true-life ironic comic tragedy.