Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
LAFF ’12: FOUR
name is June, but unlike Johnny Cash’s Boy Named Sue, he is more sullen than
angry. He is also sexually conflicted
(no kidding). At least he has found someone
willing to listen to him: a middle-aged middle class husband and father who
should not be trawling for teens on the internet. They constitute one of the two couples
circling around each other on a fateful Fourth of July night in Joshua Sanchez’s
FOUR (trailer here), which screens
today at the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival.
really ought to be at home with his emotionally deteriorating wife, but instead
he has arranged a clandestine rendezvous with the teenaged June. Pretending to be at an out-of-town
conference, he has left his daughter Abigayle to mind her mother. More or less home alone, she will have to
field the clumsy advances of Dexter, a would-be basketball star with a drug
problem. Suspecting something is fishy
with her upright father, Abigayle starts encouraging Dexter out of spite. Connections might be made, but the results
are not what you would probably call romance.
there is something creepy about a film that considers a grown man sexually
pursuing a teenager (not of legal age) sympathetic in any fashion. Indeed, June and Joe’s “courtship” scenes are
criminal (according to Joe, the character) and most certainly unsavory. Yet ironically, Wendell Pierce’s admittedly richly
nuanced and fully dimensional performance as the older man makes it all the
more difficult to draw a bead on the film’s ethical-moral framework.
and his voice, HBO fixtures in Treme and
The Wire, are quite compelling, but
the breakout star has to be Aja Naomi King as Abigayle, completely engaging
portraying her character’s intelligence as well as her bitter
capriciousness. Unfortunately, both of
their potential partners are rather bland screen presences.
to be a special interest to New York theater patrons, FOUR is based on Christopher Shinn’s play and boasts Neil LaBute as
one of its executive producers. Given
the film’s interracial pairings, many critics will surely be tempted to compare
FOUR to Crash. It would be a dubious
compliment. At least Sanchez creates a
memorable late-night in-the-moment vibe.
A highly problematic film featuring two quite accomplished screen turns,
FOUR is not necessarily recommended,
but it will likely find an appreciative audience nonetheless when it screens today
(6/15) and Monday (6/18) as part of this year’s LA Film Festival.
Labels: LAFF '12, Wendell Pierce