This year’s lineup of American films at the 2014 Traverse City Film Festival, held in Traverse City from July 29th to August 3rd, features “Life of Crime,” starring Jennifer Aniston and deemed one of the best adaptations of an Elmore Leonard book yet. A new Woody Allen film, a 13-year-old hellraiser, The Beatles and lots of quirky and poignant love/out-of-love stories fill this year’s line up of American films at the Traverse City Film Festival. Most tickets go on sale on July 13, 2014 so mark the date!
American Films at the Traverse City Film Festival
5 TO 7 – Wednesday 3 pm. State Theatre, Sunday 9 pm. Lars Hockstad
2014 | USA | NR | 97 min.
Maybe there are some people you are meant to love, and some you are meant to marry—this idea, and the French “cinq à sept” affair (liaisons scheduled during that hazy time between leaving work and arriving home) are explored in this gloriously romantic, Audrey Hepburn-esque love story. After Bérénice Marlohe (“Skyfall”) and aspiring writer Anton Yelchin (“Star Trek”) fall in love at first sight, it takes time for him to accept the open relationship she has with her husband, but soon he’s attending the married couple’s dinner parties with the husband’s mistress in attendance, too. His parents (Glenn Close and Frank Langella) are memorably slower to accept the concept, and eventually, he has to decide if the 5 to 7 window is enough. A funny and earnestly sentimental crowd pleaser, “5 to 7” has the power to change the way we think about relationships.
BLUE RUIN – Thursday 6 pm. Bijou
2013 | USA | R | 91 min.
Dwight lives a peaceful existence as a beach bum in a Virginia resort town, scraping by on food scrounged from dumpsters and generally avoiding confrontation with the locals while sleeping in his beat-up Pontiac. But his life is given renewed purpose when he receives word that a man with whom he has a score to settle is set to be released from prison. Dwight is spurred into action as a hapless assassin with the will and motivation—but not necessarily the resources—to exact revenge. His ineptitude as a killer sets off a chain of events that leaves him in a desperate fight to protect his family. An award winner at Cannes, director Jeremy Saulnier’s masterful revenge thriller is rife with blackly comedic moments and heart-pounding thrills.
COHERENCE – Wednesday 9 pm. City Opera House and Saturday 3 pm. Old Town Playhouse
2013 | USA | NR | 89 min.
When four couples meet for a dinner party on the night Miller’s comet is due to pass close to Earth, they couldn’t have anticipated the astrological anomaly causing a disruption of the evening’s affairs. But after the power goes out, internet and phone service shut down, and all the lights in the quiet suburb go dim—save one eerily similar house a few blocks away—their evening takes a decidedly mind-bending turn. As the group scrambles to make sense of the bizarre turn of events, they argue over ever-wilder theories as to what sinister forces lie in wait outside the confines of the house. A heady mix of quantum physics and mystery, “Coherence” is a clever and original low-budget sci-fi flick that emphasizes storytelling over flashy effects, and is sure to be one of the most talked about genre films of the summer.
COLD IN JULY – Thursday 6 pm. Miliken
2014 | USA, France | R | 89 min.
On a hot summer night in Texas in the late 80s, timid family man Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) semi-accidentally shoots and kills low-life burglar Freddy Russell, who has invaded his family’s home. This action sets off a chain of events that sends ripples beyond Dane’s small hometown. When word of Freddy’s demise reaches his father (Sam Shepard), the grizzled ex-con rolls into town with vengeance on his mind, and Richard turns to a flamboyant private eye in Houston (Don Johnson) to help protect his family. Full of smart twists and turns, this suspenseful pulp action flick follows the trio’s deadly chase through an increasingly intricate web of police corruption, vigilantism, and violence that will keep you rooted to your seat, all of the way through to its shocking conclusion.
FADING GIGOLO – Thursday 12 pm. Lars Hockstad and Saturday 9 pm. State Theatre
2013 | USA | R | 98 min.
What a delight to see Woody Allen in top form, riffing as Murray, owner of a cash- strapped rare books emporium. He sees an opportunity to save the store when his dermatologist (Sharon Stone) asks him to find a man who can help her realize the fantasy of a ménage à trois with her friend, Sofia Vergara. Murray talks his shy florist friend Fioravante (actor-writer-director John Turturro) into taking the job, and his remarkable skills lead to a lucrative series of meetings with other wealthy and lonely women. Everything goes remarkably well until Murray arranges a platonic meet-up with a lonely Hasidic widow (Vanessa Paradis), and a meaningful bond begins to form under the jealous and watchful eye of Liev Schreiber from her neighborhood’s Jewish police. It’s possibly the funniest, most tender, wryly observant, sepia-tinted, jazzy story about a gigolo ever made.
LIFE OF CRIME – Friday 9 pm. State Theatre and Saturday 6 pm. Lars Hockstad
2013 | USA | R | 94 min.
We are thrilled to present the US premiere of “Life of Crime,” the best adaptation we’ve seen of a novel by “the Dickens of Detroit,” Elmore Leonard. John Hawkes and Mos Def star as low-level criminals who kidnap a corrupt Detroit real estate developer’s wife for ransom (the couple is played by Tim Robbins and Jennifer Aniston). While Aniston attempts to improve her position, two very different kinds of sleazeballs up the ante in an escalating sequence of double crosses and plot twists, all set in 1970s Detroit to a great soundtrack of Top 40 hits and lounge tracks. Based on Leonard’s 1978 novel “The Switch,” director Daniel Schechter’s (“Supporting Characters,” TCFF ‘12) comedy brilliantly captures the look and feel of inexpensive 70s caper cinema, from the opening copyright to the vintage jacket Aniston wears (an item in our TCFF auction!).
HELLION – Friday 9 pm. City Opera House and Sunday 9 pm. Old Town Playhouse
2014 | USA | NR | 98 min.
Expanded from her short film of the same name (TCFF ‘12), writer/director Kat Candler’s hard-hitting family drama explores adolescent angst through the eyes of 13-year-old hellraiser Jacob. In a small rural town in southeast Texas, single father Hollis (Aaron Paul of “Breaking Bad”) has withdrawn to boozy depression following the death of his wife, and doesn’t have much in the way of fatherhood to offer his two boys. Left unattended, Jacob’s wild antics threaten to bring the family to collapse when his latest stunt draws the attention of Child Protective Services, and Jacob’s younger brother is removed from his father’s custody. A breakout hit at Sundance, this authentic and haunting family drama offers the very best of American indie cinema, including masterful performances by Aaron Paul and teenage newcomer Josh Wiggins.
LAND HO! – Wednesday 12 pm. Lars Hockstad and Saturday 6 pm. Miliken
2014 | USA | R | 95 min.
After being forced into retirement, Mitch, a cheeky sweetheart of a man, convinces Colin, his gentle soul of an ex-brother-in-law, to join him on an impromptu holiday to Iceland to get their septuagenarian groove back. The result is a joyously entertaining and thoughtfully humorous journey of rediscovery. Together, they take on the hottest nightclubs, swankiest spas, and finest restaurants in Reykjavik before exploring the gorgeously filmed vast vistas and natural wonders of the countryside. Part exhilarating travelogue, and part road-tripping buddy comedy, the incredible comedic chemistry and refreshingly old-fashioned regard for characterization make this touching look at friendship and aging a sure-fire TCFF hit. You’ll leave the theater smiling uncontrollably with the overwhelming sense that their adventures, and yours, are just beginning.
LOVE IS STRANGE – Wednesday 9 am. Miliken and Saturday 6 pm. City Opera House
2014 | USA, France | R | 93 min.
Ben and George (played brilliantly by Alfred Molina and John Lithgow) have lived in love together for 39 years before they are finally allowed to be married in 2011, when New York finally blesses same-sex marriages. But good news proves short lived when the Catholic school where George works as a music teacher conveniently “discovers” that (gasp!) he has a same sex partner (something they’ve known for years and years). George is fired, and the reduced income brings many changes. Forced to give up their Chelsea apartment, and unable to find a new place, George camps out on the couch of the two gay cops next door, while Ben moves into his nephew’s teenaged son’s bottom bunk in Brooklyn. Marisa Tomei and Darren Burrows co-star in Ira Sachs’ funny, tender, sensitive study of partnerships, modern love, and the damage caused by homophobia. In English, Russian with subtitles.
THE ONE I LOVE – Wednesday 9 pm. Lars Hockstad, Sunday 9 pm. Movies on a Boat and City Opera House
2014 | USA | R | 91 min.
We all have a good wife, or a good husband, inside of us—but sometimes we lose touch. Love and physical attraction fade, and soon we’re harping on our mate not to eat the foods they love. Elizabeth Moss and triple-threat Mark Duplass give near perfect performances as a married couple on the brink of separation in Charlie McDowell’s wholly original, funny, and remarkably clever exploration of marriage. Things get a little bit “Twilight Zone” when the couple begins exploring the beautiful weekend getaway house suggested by their marriage counselor (Ted Danson). Forced by a series of bizarre experiences to confront their better and worse selves, McDowell’s comedic, uncanny exploration of troubled human partnerships has wholly unpredictable results that you’ll be discussing after the film ends. Bacon!
SISTER – Thursday 7 pm. Elk Rapids, Thursday 6 pm. State Theatre and Friday 3 pm. Lars Hockstad
2014 | USA | NR | 113 min.
Reid Scott (“Veep”) shows his star potential playing Billy, the older brother of an adopted sister Nikki (Grace Kaufman), a troubled teen in desperate need of help. When their unstable mother Susan (Barbara Hershey) is institutionalized following a tragic accident that left her widowed and Nikki without the father she relied on so heavily, Billy and his wife are forced to take in the difficult sister. The resulting household tensions cause significant career and household strife that ends in big life changes for an initially reluctant Billy. But as the bond between the siblings strengthens and he grows into the role of brother and protector, Billy discovers that, in order to really help Nikki, what he really needs is a plan to replace the psychotropic drugs that have been prescribed for her. Amidst the incredibly personal, compelling, and often laugh-out-loud funny family drama, director David Lascher crafts an important and powerful statement about medicating our children.
PALO ALTO – Wednesday 6 pm. State Theatre
2013 | USA | R | 100 min.
Based on a book by pop provocateur James Franco, “Palo Alto” is that rare teen movie that vividly captures the beautiful rapture and intense indifference of youth in a manner that is both decidedly of its time and somehow also timeless. A dreamily evocative portrait of teenagers trapped in their suburban milieu, this film follows April (Emma Roberts), the prototypical girl next door—shy, sensitive, and yearning for Teddy (Jack Kilmer, whose father Val makes a cameo), the sweetly lost boy next door. But despite a shared affection, adolescent indecisiveness keeps them apart and April suddenly finds herself engaged in an illicit flirtation with her soccer coach (James Franco). A remarkable debut from director Gia Coppola—proving some things really do just run in the family—her decidedly mature direction marks the entrance of a bold and exciting new voice in American cinema.
RUBBER SOUL – Friday 6 pm. Old Town Playhouse and Sunday 12 pm. Bijou
2014 | USA | NR | 84 min.
Just when you thought the Beatles had been done every which way from Sunday and back, director Jon Lefkovitz comes along with a completely fresh take on the legendary band’s story. John Lennon and Yoko Ono gave Rolling Stone’s Jann S. Wenner an interview in December 1970 for the release of “Plastic Ono Band.” Ten years later, while recording “Double Fantasy,” they agreed to an interview with Playboy, just three months before Lennon’s assassination. Lefkovitz took verbatim chunks of the interviews from transcripts and had Joseph Bearor and Denice Lee reenact them (although Ono mostly sits quietly while Lennon talks). He then expertly edited them together, cutting back and forth in time to create a fascinating and revealing look at the repetitive nature of celebrity interviews, and at John Lennon, the musician and the man.
FRI 6 PM OTP | SUN 12 NOON BIJ
SUMMER OF BLOOD – Wednesday 12 am. Old Town Playhouse and Thursday 9 pm. Bijou
2014 | USA | NR | 86 min.
Part Woody Allen-esque self-deprecator, part schlubby-but-loveable Judd Apatovian man-child, writer-director-star Onur Tukel is a force to be reckoned with in this outrageously hilarious and goofy comedy. Tukel plays Eric, an egotistical and unambitious complainer who doesn’t have the good sense to say yes when his far-too- good-for-him girlfriend proposes. With limited career prospects, an inability to commit, and severe shortcomings in the bedroom, Eric is just about every Match.com-er’s worst nightmare. But just when our bumbling antihero seems to have hit rock bottom following a bizarre encounter one night, he wakes up with a new lease on life—and an insatiable thirst for blood. Transformed into a literal lady-killer, Eric embarks on a quest to win back the one that got away in this freewheeling Brooklyn love story.
WILD CANARIES – Thursday 9 pm. Old Town Playhouse and Saturday 9 pm. Bijou
2014 | USA | NR | 98 min.
Classic mystery lovers will rejoice at this affectionate amateur detective adventure that casts a Brooklyn couple as a sort-of hipster Nick and Nora Charles. Barri (Sophia Takal) is an inquisitive ball of energy, so naturally she suspects foul play following the death of her elderly neighbor, and sets out with childlike enthusiasm to investigate. With the help of her roommate Jean (Alia Shawkat of “Arrested Development”), Barri embarks on a shenanigans-heavy surveillance mission—while her boyfriend Noah (director Lawrence Michael Levine) unsuccessfully attempts to rein her in, thinking his partner’s imagination is running wild after watching a little too much Hitchcock. But as the evidence starts to pile up, the unlikely sleuths uncover secrets harbored within their apartment building that paint everyone in a suspicious light. Also starring Jason Ritter (“Parenthood”) and TCFF perennial Kevin Corrigan, this is not your typical Brooklyn-set American indie, but a witty farce with a smart sensibility all its own.