Easier With Practice

Easier With Practice

****

Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Easier With Practice is a date movie on a par with Audition or The Piano Teacher. It says something about people and relationships that is true and affecting, and totally out of keeping with convention or Hollywood tradition. It's a lovely film, with a ludicrous twist, made all the more so by the fact that it's based on a true story.

That story is of Davy Rothbart, here fictionalised as Davy Mitchell. He wrote a piece called 'What are you wearing?' about life on tour, not the exciting prospect of being in a band but a gruelling promotional tour for a self-published collection of short stories. As Davy, Brian Geraghty is excellent - he's got the whole Thoreau-style 'quiet desperation' going for him, no real job, no real future, no real thing. He can be seen twice at this year's Edinburgh Film Festival, also appearing in The Hurt Locker. Kel O'Neill is his brother Sean, and he's also featured in a War On Terror film with a role in Brian De Palma's Redacted.


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The heart of the film is relatively simple - in an anonymous motel somewhere that's probably New Mexico, Davy answers the telephone and gets talking to Nicole (Kathryn Aselton). She changes his life, quite drastically, her honeyed (and often more so) words a siren's call to young Davy. Even when his friend Samantha tries to seduce him he remains at Nicole's beck and (telephone) call. Samantha is convincingly played by Marguerite Moreau, last seen by British audiences in Beverly Hills Chihuahua. All the roles are well filled, in fact, this is a film carried by its performances. Centrally, Geraghty is amazing, always exhibiting what seems the perfect amount of hurt, loss, lust, confusion or simple incomprehension.

The film certainly deserves praise for its maturity around sexuality. While what Davy and Nicole have isn't mainstream normal, despite its odd genesis it's still a real thing, and most importantly it feels as if it's real for them both.

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A debut feature for writer and director Kyle Patrick Alvarez, it shows a confident eye and good judgement. There's a kind of distant intimacy to Alvarez's framing, and while the film was shot entirely on the RED ONE digital platform it's fairer to credit him and cinematographer David Rush Morrison for the look. This isn't the crisp Western landscape of John Ford or 3:10 To Yuma, but a succession of messy off-campus bookstores, discount motels, the empty roads between them. Not just desolate, but heartless.

The soundtrack is just about the opposite, a succession of winsome American indie acts, too many to mention. It fits well the post-college young adult nature of the film, the long gap between adolescence and feeling like a proper grownup. What ten years ago would have been called 'Generation X', now a sort of hipster hinterland. It fits though, it makes sense, no matter what happens within it.

You could call the film magical realist, but that would require a happier ending than it gets. This isn't as dark as some love stories, but it's surprising enough to need a note of caution. The hurt is almost entirely emotional, but it is still there, and moving. If the title is to be believed, and on the basis of his work here, Alvarez will be a talent to watch.

Reviewed on: 16 Jun 2009
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An unpublished author embarks on an unusual relationship after receiving a seemingly random phone call.
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