28 February 2011

Cold Weather

Written & Directed by: Aaron Katz
Full credits at IMDb

Life is boring in Cold Weather—but art? Art's a gas! Doug (Cris Lankenau) lives in gray and rainy Portland, works in an ice factory (about as exciting as in a box factory), and rooms with his sister, Gail (Trieste Kelly Dunn); the most fun they have is going whale watching in the rain and not seeing any whales. They live in a quiet city, whose activity-level matches that of their ambling, somnolent narrative.

Like the mumblecore heroes they initially resemble, brother, sister and their friends lack an emotional language; everything's "good," "nice," or "I don't know". (It may not be set in Brooklyn, but Portland's "SE Brooklyn St." becomes a crucial location in the plot.) Communication is dominated by pleasantries and cliches; the characters amble around in what resembles an anti-depressant-fueled torpor, until Doug's visiting ex (Robyn Rikoon) apparently vanishes under seemingly malicious circumstances. Doug (also a one-time forensics major) and his DJ co-worker Carlos (Raul Castillo), both hooked on Arthur Conan Doyle novels, are tossed into a mystery of their own, becoming blue-collar hipster versions of Holmes and Watson (with Gail as their spunky female sidekick, thrown in for the 21st Century); they're tossed-together detectives modeling themselves on detective fiction, both literature and television, feeding off the thrill of life imitating art.

Geeky signifiers replace The Cool, like Seinfeld gone sleuthing: a batting cage replaces a pipe, and Swedish fish replace a stakeout's cardboard coffee cups. (The film also pays homage to great predecessors: a clue turns up in a pornographic magazine, which along with the Pacific Northwest setting evokes Twin Peaks; and the post-modern consideration of the genre, along with baseball statistics as a plot device, recalls Paul Auster.) There's a rough-at-first learning process of how to conduct an investigation, but the movie serves as a testament to the everyman's capacity for ordinary snooping. Doug slips easily into the chivalrous role, saving the distressed damsel; the characters even begin to share some of their feelings with one another. It's as though through action, they learn emotion. Grade: A

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