Breakfast With Curtis: LAFF Review
Writer-director Laura Colella's film tells the story of a socially awkward teen who comes out of his shell.
A slew of independent movies in the early 2000s, including Little Miss Sunshine, Juno and Napoleon Dynamite among them, seem to have somehow convinced a subsequent wave of filmmakers that it’s sufficient for films to simply be quirky to succeed.
In her third feature, writer-director Laura Colella enters similarly idiosyncratic territory, but with decidedly less persuasive results. Too unfocused to be considered a coming-of-ager, there’s little indication that Breakfast With Curtis will be of much interest beyond friends, family and perhaps film festivals.
For years, nextdoor neighbors Syd (Theo Green) and Simon (David Parker) have been at odds after Syd browbeats and threatens Simon’s kid Curtis (Jonah Parker) in a self-absorbed tirade. Five years later, the neighbors are still barely speaking, until Syd hits on a scheme to recruit Curtis for a project he’s percolating. A bookseller who repurposes selections from his personal collection, Syd’s beginning to feel pressure from his clients to put more information about himself and his library online, but has no clear idea how the internet really works. Now an awkward, home-schooled teen, Curtis agrees to assist with shooting videos for Syd’s promotional campaign, since he’s bored and pretty much friendless anyway.
Simon and his wife Sylvie (Virginia Laffey) are more reluctant to let Syd’s past transgressions go, but they recognize Curtis’ need to overcome his social anxiety, and besides, Simon already buys pot from Syd’s tenant Frenchy (Aaron Jungels), who lives in the attic of the rambling house called the “purple citadel” with his girlfriend Paola (Colella).
Syd’s ideas for the videos are offbeat to say the least, consisting of long ramblings about his life experiences and exploits. Curtis patiently tapes them on a consumer video camera, transfers them to his laptop and uploads them to YouTube, where Syd is thrilled to see them accumulating literally dozens of views.
After reaching a truce of sorts with Syd’s household, Curtis’ parents are getting along great with his girlfriend Pirate (Adele Parker), Frenchy and Paola, smoking pot or drinking wine and cocktails in the long summer afternoons and into the evening. Curtis’ immersion in this slacker scene prompts him to marginally emerge from his shell of shyness and begin socializing more like a typical teenager.
Not much else happens in Colella’s laid-back film and despite much discussion about this being Curtis’ "seminal summer," there are no real revlations, perhaps because the narrative is as rambling as Syd’s purple citadel. Colella has apparently collected a series of anecdotes based on her actual neighbors and strung them together with a thin thematic thread, but no definitive storyline emerges.
A tight budget reportedly inspired Colella to bring her friends onto the DIY project as collaborators and presumably take on most of the key filmmaking roles herself, which is perhaps why the creative elements are so indistinct from one another.
With the exception of the filmmaker herself, none of the cast are actually actors and their appearances on camera could barely be termed performances, inasmuch as they’re essentially playing themselves. Line readings are often either forced or casually tossed off, making little impression. Without much of a narrative for guidance and an inexperienced cast to wrangle, Colella sticks to an unremarkable production style that gets the job done, but not much more.
Venue: Los Angeles Film Festival
Cast: Theo Green, Jonah Parker, David Parker, Virginia Laffey, Aaron Jungels, Yvonne Parker, Adele Parker, Laura Colella, Gideon Parker
Director/screenwriter: Laura Colella
Producer: Laura Colella
Executive producer: Michael A. Jackman
Director of photography: Laura Colella
Editor: Laura Colella
No rating, 82 minutes