My Effortless Brilliance
Films about male friendship are sadly rare. However the quality of these films, as varied as "The Shawshank Redemption" and "Superbad," is exceptionally high. It also happens to be the subject of my favorite film of all-time, "Withnail and I."
"My Effortless Brilliance" is the latest film to take on male friendship so I made a point of singling it out amongst the 9,428 films playing at the Seattle International Film Festival.
When we first see Eric (Sean Nelson) and Dylan (Basil Harris) together, Dylan simply says, "I think you're a really terrible friend," as he walks out the door. We are not clued in to exactly why Dylan feels this way but Eric's status as a pretentious up and coming Seattle author probably has something to do with it.
Jumping ahead two years, Eric's got a new book coming out but it seems he has no friends. In an effort to re-connect with the only one he had, Eric drives to eastern Washington to surprise Dylan, and hopefully find that things are fine between them again. What follows is an entertaining and thoughtful examination of friendship over good food, a lot of beer, and an ill-advised cougar hunt in the woods with Dylan's new pal Jim (Calvin Reeder).
"Brilliance" consists mainly of improvised dialogue and the actors do a terrific job. Their conversations are as funny as they are realistic. Watching the film often feels like reliving the conversations you've had with your friends on a quiet Saturday night in.
Director Lynn Shelton lets the characters tell the story. She makes a few minor missteps. A few scenes go on a little longer than they should and for some reason virtually every shot for the first fifteen minutes is an extreme close-up. At one point I thought the camera might actually go up an actor's nose. These are minor issues though and she knows how to tell a good story. Her choice not to tell us why these two pals "broke up" is a risk that pays off.
Since "My Effortless Brilliance" was shot in Washington virtually every member of the cast and crew was present for the SIFF screening. Given how small the cast and crew actually were that is not an exaggeration. In a Q and A after the film, Shelton, Nelson, Harris, and others happily took questions from the audience. I didn't realize until this post-screening Q and A that Nelson had actually been the lead singer for Seattle's own Harvey Danger. Remember that song "Flagpole Sitta"? Unless you were under a rock in 1998 I know you do. He had never acted before but to watch his performance you would never know it. Nelson also confirmed that the story his character tells of a celebrity encounter was true. I won't ruin it for you because it is simply too funny. On my way out the door I got to shake Nelson's hand and congratulate him on his performance.
"My Effortless Brilliance" does not yet have a release date but I will keep you informed. This is a very good movie and one that deserves to be seen. 8/10.