Her Idiot Brother: The Color Wheel

The Color Wheel
dir. Alex Ross Perry | USA | 2011 | 83 mins.

Writer-director-actor Alex Ross Perry’s second feature—about a brother and sister who travel to New York City so she can move out of her ex-boyfriend’s apartment—proves that the once-derided (and still, in some quarters, unfairly maligned) mumblecore subgenre is continually being pushed in new and interesting directions. Equally as accessible as Aaron Katz’s atmospheric, Holmsian mystery Cold Weather (wcs ’11), which was arguably the first mumblecore ‘genre’ picture, The Color Wheel is as much a road movie as it is a portrait of two wholly believable characters in conflict with one another, and the world. Perry, who—and this is not meant as an insult—both looks and sounds like an overgrown Michael Cera, stars as the brother, Colin; Carleen Altman, who co-wrote, plays his sibling, JR, an mpdg-esque aspiring actress and would-be weathergirl. She’s recently broken up with her J-school prof. in NYC, and enlists Colin’s help in moving her stuff of his apartment.

So, after she’s mean to his girlfriend and he insults her for having a ‘vision board,’ they set off for the city. They bicker the entire way there, and have encounters with a number of upstate weirdoes along the way—a surly and scarily zealous religious motel manager, and the couple in the room next door who have some uncomfortably loud sex, for example. At a breezy 83 minutes, the film’s snappy dialogue—largely improvised, as is a hallmark of the genre—maintains a neat energy, although there are some road-trip moments where a finger-snapping/acoustic soundtrack provides a more contemplative mood. The film’s set-pieces (JR’s heated argument with her ex; an asshole-filled party she takes Colin to) are terrific, but the duo’s final conversation—a nine-minute single shot, eloquently described by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky in his critique of the film—is among the most surprisingly gripping and involving that the subgenre has yet produced.

The 2012 World Cinema Showcase runs from March 29–April 11 in Auckland; April 5–22 in Wellington; April 19–May 2 in Dunedin, and April 26–May 9 in Wellington.

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