Tribeca Film Festival Diary: Days 7 and 8

Numb with Matthew Perry, a good time with James Franco, cake with Mary Stuart Masterson, plus a daliance with Taxidermia.

by Amber Wilkinson

When you realise that Matthew Perry vehicle Numb was written and directed by the same man (Harris Goldberg) who co-wrote the abomination that was Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo it's enough to have you running for the exit. Fortunately, I only noticed the connection once the credits had rolled, which is just as well since this isn't a bad effort - putting some reality into traditional rom-com territory.

Perry - who has been very quiet on the film front since his Friends left - stars as Hudson, a screenwriter suffering from depersonalisation disorder, a subsection of depression that he battles for the entire movie in a bid to win over the woman of his dreams (the very feline-looking Lynn Collins).

This is all Perry's movie. He's never off-screen and continually providing voice-over when not interacting with others. He stands up pretty well to scrutiny as a man who has lost it and is desperate to find it again. There is a decent amount of badinage between him and Collins and an appealing Sideways-style subplot with his screenwriting partner Tom (Kevin Pollak). However, given the nature of the subject matter it occasionally feels far too glib and could do with putting its foot on the gas in places.

Good Time Max also deals with drug-taking, although in a much blacker fashion. Co-written and directed by James Franco, who is currently reprising his role of Harry Osborn in Spidey 3, it tells the story of two genius brothers who become estranged after one slips into substance abuse. Franco is great as the eponymous Max, getting by on his brains as he tries to blow them out with cocaine and, later, crystal meth. Vince Jolivette, also brings an excellent level of world weariness to his portrayal of Max's long-suffering surgeon brother Bruce.

The direction has some nice touches, too, but the story is lacking, as things take a swift turn two-thirds of the way through the runtime into No-Way-Jose territory, from which there is no escape. This is a film that will take all your warm fuzzy feelings, shoot them in cold blood and then tip them into a mass grave.

Thankfully, there's plenty of warmth to spare - even if it is of a bittersweet nature - in Mary Stuart Masterson's directorial debut The Cake Eaters - which I think is my favourite American-bred film of the festival so far. Apparently, she's been trying to convince people to let her have a spin behind the camera since 1995, according to Variety, on the strength of this, it's a shame they made her wait so long.

The plot centres on the minutae of life for two families in smalltown America. Bruce Dern - playing against his usual thug type - is Easy Kimborough, an ageing dad who has just lost his wife and who lives with his younger son Beagle (Aaron Sanford). When his prodigal son Guy (Jayce Bartok) returns after a three year absence, family wounds are laid bare. Simultaneously, Beagle is entering into a tentative relationship with Georgia (Kristen Stewart) a precocious 15-year-old who suffers from dyspraxia - a motor disease which leaves her physically weakened.

This is a fine piece of character-driven work in a similar vein to last year's Junebug. The disability issues are handled sensitively and fit well into the overall storyline of old and new love.

Finally, I offer you the grotesque that is Taxidermia a slickly directed but distinctly stomach-churning Hungarian offering, which will mean you never view semolina or pork in quite the same way again.

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