One Way Ticket to the Moon (Bilet na ksiezyc): Gdynia Review
Gdynia Film Festival (Main Competition), Sept. 13, 2013.
Filip Plawiak and Mateusz Kosciukiewicz play brothers in Jacek Bromski's nostalgic road-movie comedy, winner of the Best Screenplay prize at Poland's national film festival.
A Polish road-movie that's warmly genial until a particularly ill-advised third-act detour, One Way Ticket to the Moon (Bilet na ksiezyc) nevertheless cements writer-director Jacek Bromski's status as a reliable supplier of audience-friendly mainstream product. Winner of the Best Screenplay award at Poland's national film festival in Gdynia, this nostalgic vision of 1969 will be released at home on Nov. 8 and might well click with older ticket-buyers. Elsewhere it could eke out brief theatrical runs in cities with significant Polish populations, before seguing to small-screen formats conducive to its strain of undemandingly whimsical humor.
And while a 123-minute running time feels excessive in terms of cinematic play, it's not hard to imagine the material being reconfigured into a two- or three-part TV mini-series, perhaps as a prelude for expansion into a serial. The two main characters -- inexperienced teenager Adam Sikora (Filip Plawiak) and his slightly older, much more worldly-wise brother Antoni (Mateusz Kosciukiewicz) -- make for agreeable protagonists as they explore the Communist-ruled country, mainly via the railways, courtesy of Bromski's episodic screenplay.
Not long out of high school, Adam has been called up for military service and reluctantly makes his way from his backwater home towards a naval base on Poland's Baltic coast. He's accompanied by Antoni, who in Last Detail style is determined to show the youngster a good time before he has to buckle down to military discipline. Very much the ladies' man, Antoni is particularly keen to help Adam on the romantic front -- life lessons paying off when the greenhorn makes his belated first carnal conquest.
This clinch happens to coincide with the live telecast of the Apollo 11 moon landings -- one small step for a man, and all that -- in a sequence that's very much the film's comic and emotional high point. Unfortunately this is where Bromski loses control of his material, as Adam becomes implausibly embroiled in the machinations of a violent small-town cop and takes drastic action to escape his tricky situation. The tone shifts so abruptly and awkwardly that the last half hour or so almost feels like an entirely different movie, the wry comedy of the earlier stretches abandoned for larkish and clumsily over-ambitious satire.
With a wobbly grasp of period detail -- lazy anachronisms abound, especially in the background of exterior shots -- Bromski, who has headed the Polish directors' union since the 1990s and traversed similar terrain with 1992's rather more serious-minded 1968: Happy New Year, relies heavily on a jukebox-style soundtrack of late-sixties music punctuated by a pleasing array of renditions of the title number.
But the picture stands or falls on the charm of the Sikora boys. As someone remarks, Adam and Antoni don't really look alike - with his curly blond locks, Plawiak resembles a young Tom Hiddleston from certain angles, while Kosciukiewicz is a dark-haired cross between Leonardo DiCaprio and Alden Ehrenreich. One Way Ticket to the Moon is given its energy and focus by the active and loquacious Antoni -- things tend to flag whenever he's absent from the screen, as is the case during that misguided final reel. Cocky but charismatic, Kosciukiewicz makes the most of this plum role, confirming his steady progress towards leading-man status even if the film as a whole proves a less than robust vehicle for his talents.
Venue: Gdynia Film Festival (Main Competition)
Production company: Zebra Films
Cast: Filip Plawiak, Mateusz Kosciukiewicz, Anna Przybylska, Kaja Walden, Bozena Adamek, Krzysztof Stroinski
Director / Screenwriter / Producer: Jacek Bromski
Executive producer: Dorota Ostrowska-Orlinska
Director of photography: Michael Englert
Production designer: Marek Kawierucha
Costume designer: Katarzyna Lewinska
Editor: Krzysztof Szpetmanski
Music: Ludek Drizhal, Aaron Frescas, Spencer Gibb
Sales: Zebra Films, Warsaw
No MPAA rating, 123 minutes
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