J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Tribeca ’13: Deep Powder


Prepare to go back to the 1980’s to get your Bret Easton Ellis on again.  The privileged kids of a New England prep school consume conspicuously and do mountains of blow.  They even do a spot of smuggling, which predictably leads to trouble in Mo Ogrodnik’s Deep Powder (trailer here), a Viewpoints selection of the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.

Eight years ago the Deep Powder secret society was formed on campus by the elite of the elite.  Ostensibly a ski club, every Christmas vacation a member is chosen to score a load of cocaine in Paraguay for the group to distribute over the coming year.  Reckless senior Natasha Tabor conspires to take the place of her risk-averse middle class roommate because she just doesn’t care.  Or at least she didn’t until she met the dirt-poor brooding ski-lift operator Danny.

A promising high school hockey player, his college career was derailed by an accident.  However, a Division I coach has promised him a three year scholarship if he can cover the first year.  Has anyone ever heard of a college making this kind of an offer, because it smells like a clumsy plot contrivance from here, but maybe that’s how NCAA Hockey rolls.  Regardless, he needs money and his girlfriend just so happens to be making a drug run.

The good news is Deep Powder is possibly the funniest movie screening at Tribeca this year.  The bad news is it probably isn’t supposed to be.  The word “comedy” never appears in the film’s description, but if it was intended as a parody of overwrought indies, Ogrodnik nails it.

Unfortunately, the design team is rather wide of the mark recreating the 1980’s.  Aside from a nostalgic appearance of a handheld video game, everything feels wrong here, including the wardrobe and figures of speech.  In one scene, Danny Ski Lift woos Tabor with a vintage soul 45 that sounds very cool, but is totally era inappropriate.  Still, Deep Powder captures the vibe of cheesy 1980’s melodramas.  Throughout the film, audiences will constantly expect a John Parr video to erupt.  Perhaps “hope” is a more accurate term than “expect.”

In truth, St. Elmo’s Fire seems to be the standard on which the cast based their performances, getting about the same tepid results.  Still, Haley Bennett brings an interesting presence to the film.  It might not be a great star turn, but we certainly believe she is a messed up kid.

One can imagine the pitch for this film as Donna Tartt with a pinch of Miami Vice.  If only that were on the screen.  Instead, Deep Powder offers a surfeit of unintentional comedy.  It is hard to recommend a film on that basis, but sometimes we have to take our entertainment where we find it. For those who are strangely intrigued, it screens again tomorrow (4/21), Monday (4/22), and Friday (4/26) as part of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

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