Sin Bin: Film Review

Coming of age tale plays like a dirtier-minded, less inspired cousin of Rushmore.

Billy Federighi's film stars Michael Seater, a scholarship kid fending for himself while his mom is away recovering from his father's death.

SEATTLE — Heavily dependent on Wes Anderson's aesthetic but charming nonetheless, Billy Federighi's Sin Bin spins a prep-school tale of first love whose late-blooming hero drives the least likely chick magnet on four wheels. An easy-sell premise and on-key performances throughout should help commercial prospects.

Michael Seater plays Brian, a scholarship kid fending for himself while Mom's "away" recovering from his father's death. Clever but shy, he's found his niche at school by loaning his decrepit van to friends for illicit rendezvous.

However unlikely it is that these well-heeled teens can't find a make-out spot without fungus-infested carpeting, the carnal-timeshare scheme offers Brian a social network and Federighi a poignant illustration of Brian's amorous failures: He has never needed to use the van himself, though he wakes each morning to dreams of sharing its cargo space with Emily Meade's bow-lipped Suzie.

Determined to get Brian deflowered is Tony (Bo Burnham), a student-body big wheel who keeps office hours in the handicapped restroom and wears custom-tailored school uniforms. In exchange for unlimited van access, he starts spreading reputation-boosting tales about Brian. Unfortunately, he's also cheating on his girlfriend with Suzie.

Christopher Storer's script is less satisfying than it might've been in resolving the Suzie problem, and is less than nimble with regard to the backstory Brian shares with black-sheep brother Benny (Brian Petsos), who has returned home briefly. But the self-assured cast breezes through rough patches, assisted by generally strong supporting performances by Jeff Garlin, Tim Blake Nelson, and others.

Much about the premise recalls Rushmore, but Federighi and crew cop Andersonesque moves throughout, from the look of a kitchen-wall calendar and the use of slow-mo to the film's British Invasion soundtrack. Those '60s songs are welcome, but their use never delivers the kind of bliss Anderson sometimes finds -- moments in which there could be no other song for the moment, or image for the song.
Venue: Seattle International Film Festival
Production Company: Moviola
Cast: Michael Seater, Emily Meade, Bo Burnham, Brian Petsos, Gillian Jacobs, Ben McKenzie, Jeff Garlin, Tim Blake Nelson
Director: Billy Federighi
Screenwriter: Christian Storer
Producers: Billy Federighi, Dante Federighi, Gary Giudice, Brian Petsos, Christian Storer
Director of photography: Seaumus Tierney
Production designer: Thomas S. Hammock
Music: Jon Sadoff
Costume designer: Elie Kaya
Editor: Craig Lewandowski
No rating, 101 minutes