The film, made for less than $1 million, stars well-known actors Olivia Wilde (Tron Legacy), Jake Johnson (Fox’s New Girl), Anna Kendrick (Up In The Air, Pitch Perfect), and Ron Livingston (Office Space). The improvisation is the thing most interesting about this film. Director Joe Swanberg only gave the actors outlines with plot points and what had to happen for each scene. Being a romantic dramedy detailing the status and complications of a relationship, the dialogue comes through very real and touching. The movie is set in a brewery and follows Wilde and Johnson’s character interactions along with their respective partners. A-
Related: Before Sunrise/Sunset, Like Crazy (Although it’s slightly more “light” in mood than these)
Aura (Lena Dunham) returns to her parent’s home in Tribeca with no job and a film studies college degree. She is stuck in the weird stage (that many college grads face) where she is post-grad but not yet in the real world. The film, shot for just $65,000 is not for everyone. The pacing is slow and nothing seems to be going on at first. Dunham shows the numbness that many (nervous, desperate, helpless) recent graduates feel but she doesn’t seem to give much more. Aura never does more than just shuffle around hopelessly. It’s a phase that many recent college graduates have but not of an extendedly long period. B-
Related: Perks of Being A Wallflower, Giant Mechanical Man
Do you ever watch one of those movies that deals with a person that’s down on their luck and makes bad life decisions? Happy Christmas is one of those.
The story involves Jenny (Anna Kendrick), a no so responsible 27-year-old who has recently broken up with her boyfriend. With many options and lacking direction, she arrives in Chicago to live with her older brother Jeff (Joe Swanberg, who also wrote and directed the film).
Jeff makes and produces films for a living. He lives a relatively happy with his novelist wife, Kelly, and their two-year-old son. Once Jenny arrives, things start to get a bit hectic. Her first night of living at the house, Jenny goes to a party to meet up with her friend Carson (Lena Dunham). Getting a little to festive, she gets smokes pot, drinks and ends up passing out in a bedroom, requiring Jeff to come pick her up.
After the passing out incident, jenny starts to form a bond with Kelly at the house. She notices that Kelly feels overwhelmed and wants time to write her novel. Trying to get her creative juices up and flowing, Jenny suggests an idea for a book that Kelly can write. Throughout the days, free-spirited Jenny and Carson get Kelly to open up, prompting a evolution of relaxation in Kelly.
At a quick glance, many will wonder why the heck a “christmas” movie is being released in June/July. Despite its title, Happy Christmas features very little of actual Christmas. The Christmas theme is meant as an accessible way to bring family together and show their interactions. A quick Christmas day scene is all that is featured in the 78 minute movie.
Director-writer Joe Swanberg is known for having his films center on the ordinary, daily interactions of a group of people. Happy Christmas features fully improvised dialogue. No set script was used for the film. The actors received outlines for each scene.
Happy Christmas is a “slice-of-life” type film. The film appeals to the viewer that likes movies heavy with improvisation, realism, and the scenes with the interactions of everyday life. Despite its slow pacing and lack of clear resolution, Happy Christmas goes above with witty dialogue, quotable lines and examining the nature of family dynamics. Happy Christmas might even give new meaning to the term “Christmas in July.” A
Happy Christmas is currently on video on demand platforms (Amazon, iTunes and others) and is scheduled for a limited theatrical release on July 25, 2014.
Things were planned for the day of Sunday March 9th: Mindy Kaling’s panel, Brooklyn-Nine-Nine and the Fifty Shades of Creativity panel. Getting to the convention center around 8:10am, I thought I would get to the Mindy Kaling event early (and get a front row seat!). One problem: forgotten badge.
A 1.5 hour round trip bus excursion later and I had my badge. First up was the panel Running the Show: TV’s Newest Queen of Comedy. Mindy Kaling, Ike Barinholtz and Adam Pally from Fox’s The Mindy Project were in attendance. The discussions included the changing nature of the television landscape. Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu changing the way people watch TV. It was discussed how cable and network shows differ, process of writing an episode and the increasing diversity of people in TV.
I toted a good ol’ point and shoot camera to all of my events for the day. I’ve gotten a few looks from people, suprised that I have an actual camera and not just an iPhone with a camera app. One of my professors even called me out on it the other day. This is how to conversation went:
“So I noticed you have an actual point and shoot camera. “-Professor
As you can tell the conversation went very well! Anyways, the Mindy Kaling panel went great. Despite the funny looks I got with my camera, it took some great pictures with it’s 20x optical zoom.
Kaling was sitting at a lounge after the panel to do an interview. People hovered around closely. Many tweets from Twitter had similar message: “Breathing the same air as Kaling/In same room as Kaling” with a boatload of exclamation points afterwards.
Since I sat at the back of the crowd, when it was time for autographs, I got to be one of the first in line! I got to take a picture with one of my TV writing role models.
I was content after this picture. I could die right at that second and be happy. You know what I mean? After the picture was taken I thought about going to a data journalism presentation by a Texas State alumna. For some reason I felt this urge to stay. I had no idea why but decided to go with it. I sat down outside of the lounge and started doing some work on my laptop.Actors Melissa Fumero and Stephanie Beatriz from Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine would be there at 3pm so I stayed. I’m so glad I did.
“Can I plug in next to you?”
A woman stood next to me as I was sitting against the wall with my laptop plugged in.
“Sure” I agreed.
She plugged her phone in and turned and asked what was going on in the streaming lounge. I told her about the people from Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine doing an interview there. She talked about how her husband liked the show. When asking where she was from, she said Chicago. I told her I maybe wanted to move to Chicago after my graduation in December 2014. She asked about what my college major was and what kind of work I wanted to do. This is where things got weird and cool at the same time.
I pulled up my about/portfolio website that I had been making for my Web Design and Publishing class. I showed her my Twitter bootstrap site covering mumblecore film.
“Oh, one of my friends does that” she said.
“Cool. Who is he?” I asked.
My body simultaneously went numb and filled with excitement at the same time. I had Joe Swanberg featured on my mumblecore website (located here). Only seeing two of his movies, Joe Swanberg was already one of my favorite directors. The woman was suprised that I knew who he was and even more suprised that I liked him as a director so much.
The next 10 minutes I got to talk with her about her high school days with Joe. The early films he did. The projects he has going on now. It was great. It was more than great. It was perfect. She was really happy that I coached her into taking a photo and getting an autograph from the Brooklyn Nine-Nine actresses.
“My husband’s going to love this!” she said.
By the end of the day I was pretty happy. Getting to meet Mindy Kaling, Stephanie Beatriz, Melissa Fumero, and a longtime friend of one of my favorite directors? Sunday, March 9, 2014 will go down in my personal history. South by Southwest is freaking awesome!