Director:Lawrence Michael Levine Writer(s): Sophia Takal Cast: Sophia Takal, Alia Shawkat, Lawrence Michael Levine, Annie Parisse, Kevin Corrigan and Jason Ritter.
I laughed, so hard. If only we could leave it at that and be done with the next 200 words I’m obliged to write, but It isn’t. I should confess that after doing a brief research into the back story of those who made Wild Canaries (American Indie scene actually isn’t what I grew up thinking it was – studio funded made-to-look-like indie cinema), and one term kept popping up ‘mumblecore’. What came to mind when I first stumbled upon this term: film critics
really know how to talk crap and pass it on and their oh-so-clever idioms. Not a fan of this term, just like this one, but for the sake of honing in on the sub-genre and the understanding that its etymology is actually more consequential than it sounds – mumblecore* it is!
Wild Canaries is the third joint film from writers/directors and actors, Lawrence Michael Levine and Sophia Takal, featuring some top indie film talent and a funny script. The film encroaches on the lives of Barri and Noah , a young couple living in Manhattan seemingly content with life and each other (our canaries in their little cage) until – murder! The discovery of elderly neighbour Sylvia’s dead body sends Barri reaching for her detective hat and trench-coat. Prime suspect? The son of the deceased ( humorously stoic Corrigan) with a motive to inherit and sell off his mother’s rent controlled apartment to keep his own money troubles at bay…
Although at this point – stressed fervently by the increasingly fed-up Noah – it just looks like an 84-year-old woman who’s kicked the bucket… To hell with sensible reasoning! Enlisting the help of best friend and housemate Jean (magnetic, understated performance from Shawkat), and to the detriment of her temporarily mordant relationship with Noah, Barri begins to uncover surprising truths – like how their party loving, pot-smoking landlord (Ritter) is may have a sinister agenda of his own – consequently putting both hers and Noah’s lives in danger.
This inverted version of Hitchcock’s Rear Window is a genuinely entertaining film, with the sole purpose of bringing 100 or so minutes of unabashed silliness, sharp-witted dialogue and thrilling crime solving. Levine and Takal are an achingly talented and formidable pair, recreating something nostalgic and reminiscent of what others have likened to The Thin Man series and the comical sleuth husband and wife team of Nick and Nora Charles.
Though you’d be forgiven in thinking that this film wasn’t set in a city known for it’s diversity, there are themes addressed that goes beyond the reach of this films lens. The more obvious speaks to a generation of millennials suffering from peter-pan syndrome and grappling with feelings of inadequacy in an ever tentative economic world. Unable to face their domestic problems, they use those around them to appease their neuroses; Barri’s stuck on this detective path for as long as she can actually find something to prove her ludicrous theories, whilst Noah is more concerned about Jean’s true intentions in encouraging Barri, and seeks his own vain validation in the arms of his sexy best friend and former girlfriend (Parisse) . Ironically what drives them apart brings them together at the end, and back into the comfort of their tiny white cage.
*“Mumblecore,” which arose at the turn of the 21st century and typically features character-driven pieces, focusing more on relationships than conventional plot points and set in a post-collegiate existence.