Breakfast With Curtis


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Breakfast With Curtis
"The cinematic equivalent of being stuck next to a drunken self-proclaimed intellectual on a night bus."

Jean-Luc Godard once said "All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun." He neglected to mention that you also need talent. Simply pointing your camera at a subject the audience is hungry for will not satisfy.

Breakfast With Curtis tells the story of a shy teenager who gradually discovers friendship - if not the power of speech - by bonding with his ageing hippy bookseller neighbour. With a flimsy central narrative, it attempts an approach to filmmaking that relies instead on the wisdom and delight to be found in observation. The trouble is, wonderful though it can be, this kind of filmmaking is really difficult to pull off. It requires strong scripting (even in the absence of formal story or set dialogue), plus engaging characters and capable actors. None of those things are present here. Consequently, we spend an hour and a half with the cinematic equivalent of being stuck next to a drunken self-proclaimed intellectual on a night bus.

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Let's start with what plot there is. Five years before the main story, Syd (Theo Green) makes a lame threat against Curtis (later to be played by Jonah Parker), who has been throwing things at his cat. The boy's father (David A Parker) makes an equally feeble protest. There's comedy potential here and it's nicely framed but the leaden acting sinks it. With no emotional weight, this simply doesn't convince as the justification for five years of animosity. At the end of that time, Syd sets about building bridges because he wants a video blog for his website and has decided that Curtis, being a teenager, should be capable of putting it together. Curtis hops about with the camera like a JJ Abrams wannabe coming down from cocaine, but again it's all too crude for successful comedy, especially as at no point does anyone seem to notice how bad the videos must be. After that, there's nothing but stodgy wordplay, ineffectual rambling and scenes of people drinking or playing ping pong. All well and good, but most people with an interest in such things could go out and do them for themselves.

At the heart of this mess seems to be the assumption that what is countercultural must be interesting, even if only in folly. In fact, it isn't even unusual any more. There's nothing here that you couldn't see communicated with sincerity in a thousand YouTube blogs, and there isn't even the dark wit that directors like Harmony Korine have brought to such subjects. It would feel wrong to laugh at these people even if they were funny; as it happens, they're just dull. As we tour their property we run across every hippy cliché there is. It's beautifully arranged - one of the film's saving graces is its splendid set design, perhaps because it's inspired by real people in a real place. The garden in which much of the action takes place is also gorgeous. When we move inside, however, everything becomes flat, and we realise that what may have looked like gifted cinematography was merely luck.

Of the actors, Jonah Parker comes off best, perhaps because the reticence of his character enables him to get away with communicating very little. The rest are uniformly terrible. Is this art? Is it doing something secretly brilliant? If so, the secret is remarkably well guarded.

Reviewed on: 10 Feb 2013
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A bookseller with a Bohemian lifestyle befriends the teenage son of the neighbours who hate him.

Director: Laura Colella

Writer: Laura Colella

Starring: Jonah Parker, Theo Green, David Parker, Aaron Jungels, Yvonne Parker

Year: 2012

Runtime: 84 minutes

Country: US


Glasgow 2013

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