Reviewed by: Michael Pattison

David Fenster is a lo-fi Renaissance Man. Writing, producing, directing, shooting and editing this blend of autobiographical fiction, homemade documentary and improvised sketch-piece, he has made a likeable film that is by turns a funny buddy-buddy movie, an awkward rom-com and a touching father/son drama.

Thirtysomething Pincus (David Nordstrom) lives with and cares for his father Paul (Paul Fenster), who suffers from Parkinson’s, while continuing the family’s interior decorating business with help from Dietmar (Dietmar Franosch), a German immigrant living in the US illegally, who pitches his tent in whichever home the pair are working on. Passing by the window of a Pilates class on his commute one evening, Pincus falls for the instructor and decides to enlist. After his first lesson, he opens conversation with said instructor, Anna (Christi Idavoy), and clutching for things to say, asks if she can recommend someone who might be able to help with his dad’s illness…

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Unfolding like several episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm atop of one another, Pincus is a character study of an ostensible slacker whose redeeming features rarely get the chance to shine. On the one hand, Pincus’s living situation has conditioned him to be forthright and unashamed when negotiating life’s banal errands; on the other hand, he is not above exploiting his father’s predicament in order to pursue a romance that might otherwise be precluded by that very same living situation. Similarly, pal Dietmar appears to be an unlikely source of wisdom, before he reveals to Pincus, with low-key hilarity, that he’s been reading the Herman Hesse novel Siddhartha – and that his favourite German authors are Goethe and Thomas Mann. With charm and wit, the film champions the undersold.

Like the aforementioned Curb Your Enthusiasm, Pincus treads that tricky terrain of having a protagonist who is deeply sceptical of the self-serious outsiders he meets (a medium, a spiritual healer, a Pilates devotee, an acupuncturist) while at the same time allowing for the possibility that it is he who may be in the wrong. There is, to be sure, a gradient between doubt and derision, and the overall tone of Fenster’s unassuming film is respectful of others even when it is gently mocking them.

Though it’s low-budget enough for the volume of actors’ voices to change with camera movements (as a result of using in-camera mikes), Pincus does demonstrate its director’s knack for cinematic wit, as when the incongruous crescendo of an ominous drone, which accompanies images of its protagonist wandering through a forest, turns out to be the diegetic source of a didgeridoo being blown over Paul as some kind of spiritual remedy. For all its humour, though, the film has ongoing concerns with the big unknown, as most obviously seen in Paul’s vain battle against Parkinson’s (and in Pincus’s vain attempts to find treatments for it). In the second half of the film, however, Pincus spends his spare hours looking for Dietmar, who has disappeared down, presumably, a cave; hauntingly, the film ends when Pincus descends into this dark unknown in search of his friend. After a sustained minute of black, the film’s end credits begin with a dedication to Franosch, who died of cancer last year.

Reviewed on: 01 May 2013
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An interior decorator who cares or his ailing father falls for a karate instructor.

Director: David Fenster

Writer: David Fenster

Starring: Paul Fenster, Dietmar Franusch, Christi Idavoy, David Nordstrom

Year: 2012

Runtime: 78 minutes

Country: US

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