EIFF #3: Easier With Practice (Alvarez, 2009)

Easier with Practice
Image from fluge.com

* * * 1/2 (out of 4) – Really Good

American “Indie” cinema has two different faces. One faces a world of quirk, hyper-realism and sly charm. After a slew of movies like “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Juno,” and, most recently, “Away We Go,” these movies, as intelligent and entertaining as they are, start to fall on their quirk and become fairly typical exercises. “Easier With Practice,” on the other hand, represents the other face, the realistic and awkward to the point of despair, while still keeping a good heart.

Based on a true story, Davy Mitchell (Brian Gerarghty) and his brother Sean are on a road trip to promote Davy’s collection of short stories, the blandly titled “Things People Do to Each Other.” Davy earnestly wants to be seen as an intellectual, but Sean just wants to pick up girls. One night, while alone in a motel room, a mysterious woman named Nicole randomly calls Davy on his cell phone and subsequently starts a phone sex relationship with him. But Davy, a lonely guy, longs for more and pleads for Nicole to meet him or at least give him her phone number. Their relationship starts to take a toll on Davy as he slowly falls for a voice onto which he can project his own fantasies. Only when Davy demands the truth does he realize the real nature of his actions.

Filmed beautifully on digital video, Kyle Patrick Alvarez takes advantage of the technology to have several long takes, including Davy’s first encounter with Nicole which lasts almost 10 minutes. This technique draws the viewer intimately into the story, almost becoming one with Davy’s awkwardness, consternation and loneliness. Also unlike the quirky indies, the characters use silence more effectively than dialogue. What isn’t said says a lot more about the characters than what is said.

The film is anchored by an excellent performance by Brian Gerarghty as Davy, who has made the rounds in supporting roles. Faced with very difficult material, which requires interaction with just a voice and many masturbatory orgasmic faces (hey, it is phone sex), Brian handles it brilliantly. He certainly has what it takes to become a fixture on the indie circuit.

While this film’s realism can become almost too painful to bear, “Easier With Practice” shows the all too real plight of a single lonely guy just looking for real love. A winner of the big prize at Las Vegas, here’s hoping that it turns heads here in Edinburgh, especially for its ending, which I certainly didn’t see coming.

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