J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Slamdance ’15: Clinger

It would be a shame if Fern Petersen’s brief high school romance with Robert Klingher were to hold them both back. In Petersen’s case, she hopes to attend MIT, whereas Klingher needs to move onto the next spiritual plane. Yes, he is dead and not loving it. It is also rather awkward for her too in Michael Steves’ Clinger (trailer here), which screens during the 2015 Slamdance Film Festival.

When Klingher first asks out Petersen, it looks like they have the makings of a cute couple. Unfortunately, Klingher doesn’t know when to crank it down and go with the flow. Exhausted by his over-eager attention, Petersen has resolved to break-up with him, but a mishap with his latest guillotine-like Rube Goldberg love contraption renders the question tragically moot—or so she assumes.

It turns out the decapitated Klingher is not ready to move on. He also wants to keep dating. As her “love ghost,” only Petersen can see Klingher. However, it turns out her mysterious track coach was once an exorcist. She wants no part of Petersen’s paranormal business, but might have some reluctant advice to offer.

Granted, Clinger might not be blazingly original, but it deftly juggles multiple forms of gross-out humor while maintaining a good heart. Perhaps the film’s vibe is best illustrated by Petersen’s best friend, the Evangelical Moe Watkins, who is constantly inadvertently blurting out the raunchiest things in perfect innocence. Yet, the film never feels like an attack on her faith.

Maybe we’re all just getting older here in the Slamdance press corps, but Clinger’s principal cast-members all really do look like high school kids. As Petersen, Jennifer Laporte is appealingly down-to-earth and admirably comfortable with the film’s chaotic style of comedy. Vincent Martella’s Klingher is an appropriately nebbish sad sack, but Shonna Major really shines through as the deliriously sweet-tempered Watkins.

Clinger might not generate the most buzz in Park City, but if you just want some raucous genre laughs, it delivers. In fact, it is quite a welcome palate-cleanser amid all the hype and noise. Affectionately recommended for fans of horror and teen comedies, Clinger screens again this Thursday (1/29) at Treasure Mountain Inn, as part of this year’s Slamdance.

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