We were able to get to see three movies this year at the Tribeca Film Festival. Fortunately, we also got to meet some of the people involved in making the films, which is the best part of a film festival.
The first movie we saw was a semi-documentary called The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq. This is a French movie, with English subtitles. This film was categorized in the Festival’s “narrative feature” category. It is, however, based on the actual 2011 disappearance of the French novelist Michel Houellebecq, who stars as himself in the film. So clearly we know that the kidnapping, if there was one, ended well. Oddly enough, this ominously titled film is a comedy. The kidnappers keep Houellebecq in a remote farmhouse. A number of fun characters come and go. It is as if Houellebecq is being held at a country house weekend (albeit not a very posh country house). They shares meals, smoke cigarettes, and have discussions on a wide range of topics. You are unlikely to catch this film at your local multi-plex but if you happen to see it somewhere, it’s worthwhile and, yes, funny.
Going in a completely different direction was Gabriel, starring Rory Culkin as a young man struggling with mental illness. As the movie opens, Gabriel’s brother is waiting for him to get off a bus and take him home. Gabriel is on a leave from the hospital where he has been institutionalized, and is supposed to be heading home to his family. Instead, he takes a detour to the college where Alice, a young woman he know, attends. The last address he has for her is out of date. When he finds her new address, her roommate tells Gabriel she is away on break. Gabriel is convinced that if he can reunite with Alice, he will be well and happy. Gabriel’s finally makes his way back to his family, but it only a temporary stop on his quest to find Alice. This is a sad story of a loving family and a sad young man.
The final movie we saw was the best of the three. Sister is funny, moving, and likely to be both a commercial and critical success. The principal cast of Barbara Hershey, Reid Scott, and Grace Kaufman as 11 year old Niki (the “sister” of the title) is outstanding. Susan (Barbara Hershey) is struggling with mental illness (a recurring theme at this year’s TFF?) and becomes suddenly widowed. Niki has been expelled from yet another boarding school, and Susan must enter a hospital for long term treatment, and is unable to care for her. Responsibility for Niki passes to her much older brother, BillyScott), who barely knows her. When Niki arrives in California, she upends Billy’s existence. He enrolls her in public school, and fights the school-and John Heard in particular as the school psychiatrist-to wean Niki off the massive doses of drugs she has been on for hers that control her behavior. It is heart-warming to see Billy and Niki’s attachment to each other grow. Grace Kaufman is an amazing actress. At the post-film talk she was sunny, bright and articulate-the opposite of Niki. Reid Scott is normally so funny, but he also delivered a serious and seriously good performance. This is a must-see movie!