SXSW film highlights: Four documentaries, from true crime to the Grateful Dead, and the comic brilliance of Noël Wells

Noël Wells’ “Mr. Roosevelt” won the audience award for best narrative feature at South by Southwest.

From a disturbing tale about a disgraced college athletic program to a breakout performance from a brilliant writer and performer Noël Wells, SXSW offered plenty of gems this year. Below are the five highlights from the Statesman’s Matthew Odam

“Disgraced” Austinite Pat Kondelis’ documentary spends as much time detailing the cover-up of a murder as the murder itself. If you want to challenge any belief you might have in the purity of college athletics, sit with this disturbing tale of manipulative former Baylor basketball coach Dave Bliss and the equally tainted administration he served. You will leave with more sympathy for victim Patrick Denehy and his family than apparently anyone at Baylor ever felt. (Full fest review.)

“Long Strange Trip” Don’t let the four-hour run time intimidate you, director Amir Bar-Lev’s exploration of the Grateful Dead moves with the fluidity and pace of a concert, with even the occasional deviations seemingly perfectly suited for a story about the psychedelic band. At a time when much music feels corporatized and soulless and a brand of disconnected narcissism fuels many of our leaders, “Long Strange Trip” reminds you of the power of coming together to create powerful art and a vital sense of community. To paraphrase a line from Bar-Lev in our conversation with him, now would be a great time to “make America Grateful again.” (Interview with director Amir Bar-Lev.)

“Mommy Dead and Dearest” The  true-crime phenomenon has gripped American audiences in recent years. What’s different about Erin Lee Car’s documentary is that she spends less time unraveling a mystery while heightening the drama, instead choosing to simply stun audiences through her reveal of the details behind a crime clearly defined early in the film. (Full fest review.)

“Mr. Roosevelt” It seems silly to describe an artist with millions of YouTube views and a brief stint as a performer on “Saturday Night Live” on her resume as undiscovered, but after watching this film, you get the feeling former Austinite Noel Wells is just now at the precipice of taking off. She wrote, directed and starred in this movie that she wholly owns, with her cutting observational wit, eye for detail and the way she can transform from daffy goofball to sympathetic character full of vulnerable longing in an instant. (The audience award winner screens at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Alamo Ritz.)

“The Work” Like the work it portrays in the film, Gethin Aldous and Jairus McLeary’s documentary delves into a dark, personal space and returns with glimmers of hope and salvation. Groups of prisoners and civilians join twice a year to engage in a form of concentrated psychoanalytic work, breaking down personal and interpersonal barriers, shattering their masks of invincibility and finding belief in themselves and their fellow man. “The Work,” which won the jury award for best documentary at SXSW, could just as easily be described as “the network,” that thing that binds people together and connects us to something deeper and more profound. (Full festival review.)

 

‘As I Walk Through the Valley’ shines light on South Texas music scenes

Catastrophe performing at Trenton Point in Edinburg, Texas, in 1999. Contributed by Donner Maldonado

Along the longest stretch of international borderland in one state exists the Rio Grande Valley, where the convergence of Spanish guitar, German accordion and African-American and Anglo-European rhythms gave birth to innovative and eclectic music scenes. “As I Walk Through the Valley,” by directors Ronnie Garza and Charlie Vela, documents the power of a do-it-yourself-attitude converging at a delta of seemingly opposite scenes, creating a unity of creativity.

The work is a study of a collective consciousness, innovators asking, “Where is my place in this microcosm?” From South Padre Island to Brownsville on over through Rio Grande City, Tejano, conjunto, country, rock ‘n’ roll, punk, pop-punk, new wave, metal and soul-Chicano-funk musics and scenes converged and coexisted in the predominately Mexican-American area.

In the oral tradition of Gillian McCain’s and Legs McNeil’s “Please Kill Me” (1996), “As I Walk Through the Valley” is told primarily through interviews new and old interspersed with live concert footage. The documentary is a true testament to the universal language of music and the universality of how things that may seem disparate are actually deeply interwoven, unable to wax or wane without one another.

Anybody who grew up supporting or involved in a fringe music scene can appreciate “As I Walk Through the Valley,” and for the uninitiated this may be the introduction you need.

‘The Honor Farm’: An Austin original, with loads of talent

Louis Hunter, left, and Olivia Applegate, far right, in “The Honor Farm.” Credit: SXSW

Some people see “The Honor Farm” as a psychedelic metamorphosis. Others see it as a prom nightmare. Some see it as a sweet horror movie. But Austin writer/director Karen Skloss says she sees it as a ghost story.

She’s reluctant to use the word horror, in part because she’s subverting that genre. “I feel like people who are expecting traditional horror and traditional scares are going to be disappointed,” she says. “The movie uses horror themes as a way to tell a story on coming of age, in the way that ‘Donnie Darko’ uses scary elements that make movies appealing for young adults. It’s a way in.”

So, just what is “The Honor Farm”?

The quirky movie deals with two young women, Lucy and Annie, who are attending prom with two young men, and Lucy is expected to lose her virginity to her date, the high school quarterback. But he gets awfully drunk and makes crude advances, so the two girls bail on him and take up an offer from an edgy group of kids to take a trip out into the country, to go into the woods to explore an old abandoned prison where people were once allegedly tortured. It’s said to be haunted.

As you might guess, when kids go into the woods, strange things happen. And strange things especially happen when you eat a couple of psychedelic mushrooms, as Lucy and Annie do, along with their new pals.

Olivia Applegate, a Houston native and University of Texas graduate, plays Lucy with a goofiness and innocence that’s quite charming. And Applegate says she thinks the movie works, in part, because the cast “really bonded while making this movie.”

She points out that she almost abandoned acting as a career choice. “I said, ‘you know what, theater and acting are so impractical, and I’ll do philosophy and be pre-law.’ And then suddenly there’s this open casting call and it’s so right for you. And so I go in, I meet them and get cast in the movie, and that started the whole domino effect.”

She also has a role in “Song to Song,” the Terrence Malick movie that opened South by Southwest this year. “I made the cut! It’s a miracle! What’s funny, too, is that I got cast in that immediately after ‘The Honor Farm,’ ” she says.

She says she’s grateful that an acting career has opened up and she skipped law school. “I never wanted to have a real job ever,” she jokes. “I grew up in high school with all honors classes played cello, was on the tudent council. I was prom queen. I had some boyfriends who were popular, all of that stuff. And then I moved to Austin for college and started singing in a band. … I realized that I was not realized interested in being a square as I thought.”

So her role in “The Honor Farm” sort of mirrors the trajectory of her actual life, which has taken an edgy turn. “The edgy people are the interesting ones,” she says.

Much of the tension in “The Honor Farm” deals with whether the edgy new friends of Lucy and Annie are dangerous. And Skloss keeps you guess for much of the movie.

She says she tested out the dialogue with her 17-year-old daughter, Jasmine, who’s a junior at McCallum High School. “We have a close relationship… and she’s a good storyteller, and when I showed her the script, she had opinions right off the bat. Jasmine and I would read the script out loud together, and she would say, ‘No, no one would ever say that.’ She was a good teenage reader.”

Skloss adds that she’s making the movie “for her demographic, you know, like edgy young adults. And the more we worked together, the more I realized that she deserved to be credited.” So Jasmine gets a credit as co-writer.

The movie was shot a couple of years ago in and around Austin. And when you watch it, you’ll probably wonder where some of the scenes take place.

The big swimming scene was shot at Krause Springs, near Austin. The actual honor farm building was an abandoned site around San Antonio. And the big suburban development scene at the beginning of the movie was shot in Leander.

Austin folks will also probably recognized the distinct music provided by Graham Reynolds and The Black Angels. Executive producers include Louis Black, Sandy K. Boone, Nicolas Gonda and Morgan Coy. Matthias Grunsky heads up the cinematography, while Mike Saenz and Spencer Parsons provide editing. Vicky Boone headed up casting, and was crucial in recruiting Applegate and getting her the job in “Song to Song,” too.

“The Honor Farm” doesn’t have a distributor yet, so it doesn’t have a release date. But it’s a good bet that it’ll get some special screenings around Austin in the future.

SXSW award-winning documentary ‘The Work’ will bring you to tears and embolden your spirit

Scene from “The Work.”

The thumping sounds of two hearts beating co-mingle, indistinguishable from one another, as two prisoners smother a lavalier microphone in their tight embrace. This is The Work. And the visceral scene is also the essence of  Gethin Aldous and Jairus McLeary’s documentary “The Work,” which Tuesday night won the jury award for best documentary at South by Southwest.

The Work is shorthand for the intense therapeutic sessions between prisoners and civilians that happen twice a year at Folsom State Prison in California. A group of civilians buses into the prison each day for hours-long sessions that leave the participants sweaty, tearful, broken and, in at least one case, bloodied. This isn’t “Scared Straight,” where borderline civilians get brought into a prison to learn of what awaits on the other side should they keep slipping. The men on the outside in this instance choose to enter the prison. Some, like a bearded museum associate named Chris, are looking for direction in their rudderless lives, and others like Charles are trying to square something with their past. For some, their reasoning is unknown to the audience and possibly even to themselves until a moment when the pieces come together and past trauma is unleashed in a torrent, as is the case with an intense teacher’s assistant named Brian.

Under the close watch of mentors and facilitators, the prisoners act as guides, helping the outsiders and each other let down their guards and learn to be vulnerable. You can see through the windows of this cinder-block room to the yard, where just feet away prisoners go through their daily routines of socializing and exercise. But in this room, you can almost feel the discomfort and humidity as sweat drips from foreheads; there is something of an exorcism that takes place. The de facto patients, both prisoners and civilians, aren’t lying on comfortable couches and staring at the ceiling, able to slowly work their way through a psychoanalysis session. This is four years of therapy distilled into four days, and it’s done with another man’s eyes often inches from your own, and a tribe of men surrounding you in support. Think a much more believable and visceral Tony Robbins’ session, with no thoughts of profit margins or book sales.

“The Work” opens with one of the founders, and a father of the filmmaker, we would learn at the end of the screening, leading the men in a chant that summons something primal and essential in them. The act of shouting unifies the men and dredges something from that deep place they will be asked to investigate during their four days. The goal is to journey deep inside yourself, investigate the betrayals or shame buried there, pull it out, declaw it and step unencumbered into your future with self-acceptance.

You can read the pain and fear in the faces of men from both sides, and when that history of suffering surfaces, it explodes, often in physical forms. Some of the toughest men in America, charged with intense and violent crimes, are learning to let down their barriers, and in doing so, they are teaching the civilians how to be vulnerable.

Like many great pieces of art, “The Work” deepens your understanding of your fellow man, cultivates compassion and empathy and connects you to the oversoul that runs through and around us all. As the men learn to trust the process, they learn that the only thing they should fear is the self they refuse to examine and that they often hold the key to their own liberation. When you watch “The Work,” you enter the hot, uncomfortable confines where beauty and truth are forged from the raw materials of pain, longing and the need to connect, and you leave shaken but more rooted in humanity.

For more on “The Work,” visit the film’s website at theworkfilm.com.

A buzz screening of “The Work” has been added at 11 a.m. March 18 at Stateside Theatre. 

SXSW: Is “Lemon” the fest’s most (intentionally) cringe-worthy movie?

“Lemon”

 

Some facts: “Lemon” stars Brett Gelman, was written by Gelman and his wife, Janicza Bravo, and was directed by the latter.

It poses one of the year’s most important cinematic questions — is Isaac Lachmann, the person Gelman plays here, actually a worse human being than Martin, his character on the British TV show “Fleabag”? It is a neck-and-neck race to the bottom in the Annoying Middle-Aged White Guy Stakes.

Self-consciously mannered with an almost Pinter-like vibe (moreso perhaps than the post-Pinter bard of Long Island, Hal Hartley), “Lemon” is the story of Lachmann. Everything about this guy screams jerk — tall but not self-possessed, he sports a comb-over, is an unsuccessful actor and works, sort of, as a bitter theater director. He also wears shorts. A lot.

Lachmann is directing a production of the “The Seagull,” hates the lead actress and clearly has some sort of increasingly odd crush on the lead (Michael Cera with bonkers hair, and God bless him for getting weirder with age). Lachmann’s girlfriend, Ramona (Judy Greer), is blind, goes on lots of work trips and clearly wants out of this relationship.

Things never really get less awkward — indeed the film just seems to get stranger by the minute.  As Ramona slips away from him (emotionally), Lachmann books some small TV ads, where the director examines him like a steer. (The film’s best joke might very well be the cameraman’s reaction when Lachmann gives his age and weight.)

RELATED: SXSW adds fifth screening of buzz flick “Lemon”

The cringe-hits just keep on coming. When he goes to a Passover Seder hosted by his parents (Rhea Perlman and Fred Melamed), his brother (Martin Starr) breaks out some racially awkward chatter about their sister (Shiri Appleby) and her African-American child. The scene where everyone sings “A Million Matzoh Balls” is just as stomach-turningly odd as it sounds.

Even when fortune smiles on him and a lovely Jamaican woman (Nia Long) take a liking to him, he remains the sort of fellow who meets her family and says “I saw a documentary about African-American hair. A lot of hair comes from horses.” The final sequence is … explosive.

There is no hugging and no learning here, no big catharsis or revelation.  Bravo and Gelman deliver an unnerving and deeply weird portrait of the artist as a middle-aged jerk. We have seen such things before, but maybe never quite like this.

SXSW 2017: Diane Lane learns to enjoy life in ‘Paris Can Wait’

Eleanor Coppola and her husband, Francis Ford Coppola, were attending the Cannes Film Festival in 2009, and they were supposed to fly to Eastern Europe afterward, where he had business. But Eleanor Coppola had a bad head cold and was worried about flying. So a business associate agreed to drive her back to Paris, where the Coppolas have an apartment, and her husband would join her after finishing his business.

But what was supposed to a drive of only a few hours turned into a multi-day trip, with her French companion making numerous stops along the way for wine, food and cultural explorations. When Eleanor Coppola told friends about her experience, they said she should make a movie.

Actor Arnaud Viard, director Eleanor Coppola and actress Diane Lane attend the “Paris Can Wait” premiere during the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival at Winter Garden Theatre on September 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images)

That movie is “Paris Can Wait,” starring Diane Lane as Eleanor Coppola, Alec Baldwin as Francis Ford Coppola and Arnuad Viard as the irrepressible Frenchman, Jacques.

As you might expect, the movie is gorgeous, with lush cinematography by Crystel Fournier, lavish sets and scenery that’s just about every traveler’s dream. The food doesn’t look too bad, either.

Lane’s character is actually named Anne Lockwood, and she’s in her 50s and wondering about her workaholic husband. So when a flirty business associate who eats and drinks and smokes too much agrees to show her the secrets of the French countryside, she’s intrigued but a bit wary. What plays out over the rest of the movie is a kind of delicate dance, where Anne loosens up and begins to appreciate all the attention.

I know what you’re thinking. This is a movie for older women. Well, yes, it is. But it’s also a movie for everyone who loves France, or loves the thought of getting to know France. The movie is full of joie de vivre, and it should enchant young and old, both female and male. It’s called having a life — and enjoying it to the fullest.

Sony Pictures Classics has picked up distribution rights for the film, and they’ll probably do a good job of marketing. Even if they don’t, you should go see it. A release date hasn’t been set.

Melissa Leo rips up the screen as Madalyn Murray O’Hair in ‘Most Hated Woman’

Melissa Leo delivers a powerhouse performance as the Austin atheist leader Madalyn Murray O’Hair in director Tommy O’Haver’s “The Most Hated Woman in America.”

As O’Hair, Leo is foul-mouthed, in your face, unapologetic and downright nasty at times as she battles most of the rest of the world in fighting for First Amendment rights. In case you’ve forgotten, O’Hair got the “most hated woman” description after she filed a lawsuit against the Baltimore school system, eventually forcing that district as well as others across the nation to stop having school prayer.

The Supreme Court decision is still be debated today, and O’Hair was at the center of the battle in 1963.

Peter Fonda and Melissa Leo in “The Most Hated Woman In America.” Beth Dubber/Netflix

O’Hair parlayed that fame into setting up an Austin nonprofit called American Atheists. She was a regular on TV talk shows and at one point toured the country debating a televangelist, played in the film by Peter Fonda.

Leo throws herself into the role, donning a fat suit for O’Hair in her later years when her girth widened substantially. And she doesn’t hold back on the anger or bluster. It’s almost shocking to see the early O’Hair, so out of place with her outspokenness and so unapologetic about her personal circumstances.

The movie opens with O’Hair telling her parents that she’s going to have yet another child out of wedlock. She has Bill Murray Jr., and a son named Garth is on the way.

Her deeply religious parents are appalled, of course, but O’Hair doesn’t flinch. And when she accompanies Bill Jr. to school one day and hears a teacher leading the students in the Lord’s Prayer, she starts yelling at the teacher and promising to put a stop to what she sees as a violation of church and state separation.

Nearly every man in O’Hair’s life, except for her youngest son Garth, betrays her. The first betrayals, of course, are from the men who don’t step up to help father their sons. But O’Hair suffers another setback when her oldest son, Bill, decides to become a Christian and disassociate himself from the family.

Then there’s David Waters, played by Josh Lucas, whom O’Hair groomed to take over the family business. Waters and O’Hair had a falling out eventually, and Waters came up with the scheme to kidnap O’Hair, her son Garth and her granddaughter Robin and demand that they turn over assets held in a supposedly secret account in New Zealand.

When the three disappear, a family associate notices their house is empty and that the dogs have been left behind, unattended. So he’s naturally alarmed. But law enforcement officials simply suspect that O’Hair has taken off for New Zealand to enjoy some time away from home. Then the passports are found, and then the family friend contacts a reporter in San Antonio, and finally, people begin to take matters seriously.

Meanwhile, the O’Hair family is still being held captive until a tragic event one night unleashes a fury that will leave all of them dead.

Leo’s final scenes in the film are heartbreaking, as she realizes what is happening. And you almost think that there will be some kind of redemption, some kind of grace, if O’Hair would ever accept such a concept. But Leo plays the scene note-perfect. And you know the tragedy will not be softened.

As Waters, Lucas has the second-strongest role. He captures the quintessential handsomeness and sleaziness that’s necessary. And Fonda is a hoot as a televangelist who challenges O’Hair to accompany him on a road show. It wasn’t O’Hair’s finest hour, ethically, but she did what she had to do, as Leo shows so well.

“The Most Hated Woman in America” premieres on Netflix on March 24. It screens again at SXSW at 11:30 a.m. March 18 at the Zach Theatre.

Texas ties run strong in these SXSW films

Pierce Brosnan stars in “The Son.” Contributed

Some were shot here. Some come from filmmakers who live here. And one is set in the Austin music scene (though our critic begs to differ). These are some of the movies with ties to Texas that screened at South by Southwest.

“The Son”: Based on the 2013 novel by Austin’s Philipp Meyer, shot in Central Texas, set in Texas — this TV series, coming to AMC on April 8, could only get more “Texas” if you threw in a cameo from Willie Nelson riding on Bevo while eating some Blue Bell. Pierce Brosnan plays the family patriarch; critic Charles Ealy says “he’s an archetype, of course, but what a complex character, whom Brosnan fully captures in the first two episodes of the new season.”

REVIEW: Get ready: ‘The Son’ might be the next great Texas TV series

“Song to Song”: SXSW’s opening night movie, from Austin director Terrence Malick, is “a modern love story set against the Austin, Texas, music scene.” But according to our critic Joe Gross, it “is a movie about Austin the way “Star Wars” is about Tunisia — it was shot there, but in terms of the flavor of the place, it might as well have been a matte painting.”

REVIEW: The gorgeous ‘Song to Song’ has little to do with music or Austin

“Disgraced”: This Showtime documentary is about the 2003 murder of college basketball player Patrick Dennehy by teammate Carlton Dotson and the accusations that followed against Baylor University and head coach Dave Bliss.

REVIEW: ‘Disgraced’ will leave you disgusted with Dave Bliss and Baylor University

“The Honor Farm”: This is Austin director Karen Skloss’ first narrative feature, “a story that subverts every aspect of the horror genre, not in a satirical way but in a sweet and very mushroom-trippy way.”

REVIEW: ‘Honor Farm’ delightfully subverts horror genre at SXSW

“Infinity Baby”: Austin-based filmmaker Bob Byington has created what critic Matt Shiverdecker calls “a gleefully sardonic comedy sharply observed in black-and-white across our fair city.” It stars Kieran Culkan, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Martin Starr and Noël Wells.

REVIEW: ‘Infinity Baby’ mines futuristic concept for sharply observed laughs

“Walking Out”: This feature from brothers Alex and Andrew Smith (one a current Austinite, the other a former) tells “an intense story of survival against the odds, an unexpectedly emotional journey” and stars Matt Bomer and Josh Wiggins.

REVIEW: ‘Walking Out’ is a bold and unexpectedly emotional tale of survival

“La Barracuda”: This thriller from Austin-based directors Julia Halperin and Jason Cortlund is about half-sisters who meet for the first time, and how that affects the extended family; it features lots of Texas music and some tracks live at the Saxon Pub.

REVIEW: Familial deception is at the heart of Austin-based film ‘La Barracuda’

 

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SXSW: Nine takeaways from ‘Muppet’ master Frank Oz’s chat with Leonard Maltin

From left, Dave Goelz, Fran Brill, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson and Bill Barretta in “Muppet Guys Talking.” Contributed by 2017 Vibrant Mud LLC

Frank Oz is at SXSW with this new documentary “Muppet Guys Talking.”

It is just what it says in the title: A movie about the original crew who formed around Jim Henson and gave us the “The Muppet Show” and “Sesame Street.”

Oz sat down with critic Leonard Maltin for a chat.

Guest stars thrived on “The Muppet Show.” The guest stars on “The Muppet Show” (1976-1981) were a who’s who of ’70s entertainment.”We would often hear stories about people who were hard (to work with),” Oz said. “You have to consider the source, because that would mean they want to work hard and some people don’t want to work hard. We found that once they were in an environment in which they knew they were supported, they relaxed and  believed in the characters and had a ball.”

Young people will giggle at the existence of Edgar Bergen. Which is fair. “Understand something, this is the most bizarre thing,” Oz said to the audience, “Edgar Bergen was absolutely, extraordinarily popular. And he was a ventriloquist. On radio.” (Cue massive laugh from crowd).

It is clear Oz still, for the best reasons, absolutely reveres Jim Henson. When asked who his inspirations were, Oz said, “I wasn’t really inspired by one person until I met Jim. I moved to New York when I was 19 years old because Jim asked me to.”

Bert and Ernie match Oz and Henson’s personalities, in that order. Originally, it was the opposite. “But that didn’t work, so we switched characters, which really mirrored our relationship,” Oz said. “At that time, I was neurotic, rigid, and Jim was always playful. And the design by the Workshop mirrored that. Bert was vertical, straight, rigid. Ernie is horizontal and playful.”

^This is a stone classic. “Brad, do you like swans?”^

“Little Shop of Horrors” tested reeeeeeely badly. Oz said the audience absolutely hated that the leads were killed at the end of the movie. “You want a 55 percent or greater on the score card under ‘Would you recommend this movie to a friend?’ We got 13 percent.” Time for reshoots and a happier ending.

What does he want to be remembered for? “It’s gonna sound corny, but I just want to be a good father.”

On pushing puppetry forward as an entertainment technology: “That was all Jim,” Oz said. “We were with Jim, and he took us on those journeys. Jim always wanted to break new ground.”

On how Henson would feel about streaming technology: “He would have been ahead of you all,” Oz said to a round of applause. “He believed in R&D.”

The moment everyone started to maybe tear up a bit: A gentleman in the audience asked Oz about an article in Salon called “How the Muppets created Generation X”  and how the piece suggests that a lot of the values that Gen-Xers tend to have in common were communicated by the various Muppet venues. “Tell me in your opinion what those values are,” Oz said.

“Acceptance, tolerance, curiosity, enthusiasm for diversity,” the gentleman said.

“You could just say one word for that, and that’s Jim,” Oz said. “That’s what we learned. He never shared his philosophy verbally, he just was who he was and we followed him because all those words and more were Jim’s moral compass.”

 

 

 

 

 

‘Hot Summer Nights’ tells drug-fueled coming-of-age tale

“Hot Summer Nights.” Contributed

“Hot Summer Nights” is a sneaky slice of dark Americana, a gorgeously shot, hard truth coming-of-age tale rendered through a lens of innocence and grandeur, a sexy 20th century fairy tale.

Elijah Bynum’s directorial debut catches you off guard. What begins as seemingly a nostalgic ode to early ’90s summers full of cocaine, marijuana and drinking on Cape Cod careens into more dramatic waters.

Hunter Strawberry (Alex Roe) is a James Dean-like pot dealing townie hunk who befriends the visiting Daniel (Timothee Chalamet). Their friendship blossoms into an extremely lucrative marijuana distribution operation covering the New England area as Daniel takes Hunter’s dime bag hustle to new levels, getting in bed with mobsters of some sort. The boys, becoming men, look for love and try to hold onto innocence while procreating with the profane and inevitably shed any vestiges of boyhood on their journeys.

The looming metaphor of Hurricane Bob, a major character in the third act, is smart, truly encapsulating the emotional tone of the film. Bynum’s use of a disassociated child narrator walking us through the lore of the town and the fable unfolding before us has echoes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez meets Bret Easton Ellis. And, the soundtrack is absolutely amazing. It’s a must-see film from this year’s South by Southwest.

“Hot Summer Nights” screens again at 6 p.m. March 17 at Zach Theatre.