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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

TIFF - One Last Thing...

Programme: Contemporary World Cinema
Director: Alex Styermark
Country: USA
Year: 2005
Language: English
Time: 93 minutes
Production Company: HDNet Films LLC/Head Quarters
Executive Producer: Mark Cuban, Todd Wagner
Producer: Susan A. Stover, Jason Kliot, Joana Vicente
Screenplay: Barry Stringfellow
Cinematography: Christopher Norr
Editor: Michael Berenbaum
Production Designer: Stephen Beatrice
Sound: Ira Spiegal, Marlena Grzaslewicz
Music: Anton Sanko
Principal Cast: Cynthia Nixon, Michael Angarano, Sunny Mabrey, Nelust Wyclef Jean, Matt Bush, Gideon Glick, Johnny Messner, Gina Gershon

Dylan (Michael Angarano) is a sixteen-year-old boy in the late stages of terminal cancer. He still looks well enough, has a caustic wit and delights in sharing his medical marijuana with Slap (Gideon Glick) and Ricky (Matt Bush), his hilarious best friends. His widowed, shell-shocked mother (Cynthia Nixon of “Sex in the City” fame) wants his last months to be wonderful, but also wants to be a responsible mother. The shadow of Dylan’s dead father (Ethan Hawke) occupies his dreams and thoughts of what lies ahead.

Successful black comedies walk a peculiar tightrope. Their humour springs from dark and disturbing premises, yet a lightness of step is necessary to keep things spry and funny. A textbook example of how to sustain this fine balance is One Last Thing…, the second feature by impressive American director Alex Steyermark, following his 2003 hit Prey for Rock & Roll.

When Dylan gets a chance to enjoy the generosity of an organization much like the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he lies and declares he wants to go fishing with NFL quarterback Jason O’Malley ( Johnny Messner). Once onstage, however, he reveals his true last wish: a weekend alone with supermodel of the moment Nikki Slater (Sunny Mabrey). Meanwhile Nikki, a messed-up, drunken self-destruction machine, desperately needs a boost of publicity after pushing another model offstage at the latest fashion show. Her agent (a delicious Gina Gershon) gives her an ultimatum and books her appearance, setting the stage for one of this year’s most unlikely courtships.

Alternately laugh-out-loud funny and tearfully poignant, Barry Stringfellow’s script is pitch-perfect and Steyermark shows how a talented director of actors elicits subtle, expertly modulated performances. Angarano, a familiar face from his strong supporting roles in Almost Famous and Seabiscuit, underplays to great effect; his comedic timing is impeccable, his dramatic moments credible and affecting. Nixon, faced with a thankless, challenging role, is extraordinary, conveying great strength in a woman battered by circumstance.

One Last Thing… is another sure sign that, after some difficult years, American independent cinema is finding a confident, engaging voice once again.

After the film I kept thinking “how did they know that people would laugh at this scene?" The kid is DYING! I actually loved this film. I laughed and I cried – and the girl next to me sobbed (not Greektown). Of course the theme of facing death, letting go of someone that you love and spirituality in the face of death all resonated with me – quelle surprise.

One of the lines in the movie really resonated with me… the kid was asking his doctor why he believed in an afterlife when he (the kid) felt it was pointless and didn’t exist. The doctor responded: “it can’t hurt” – what a great line! (Sidebar: I really liked the fact that they were not particularly ascribing to one kind of religion, rather taking elements and making references to various religions – that really appeals to me more so than a straight-up full press of any one kind. The exploration of “what comes after” was a fascinating side-story) Cynthia Nixon did a fantastic job as the mother trying to balance her reaction to the impeding death of her son and his wish to have certain life experiences before he dies. Sunny Mabry, the model Niki, was also great as the train-wreck girl facing her own demons. Ultimately however, it was the relationship between the three boys and Micheal’s own performance that carried this film. The jump from tears to laughter (and back and back) was as surprising as it was enjoyable. It reminded me a lot of Saint Ralph from last year in terms of great performances from a young actor.

Oh yeah, and I want to marry the football player. Just sayin’.

Posted by Brown Eyed Girl :: 1:11 PM :: 0 Comments:

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