Plays at Cinematheque from March 11 to 18
Coincidentally, I like movies, too. Canadian filmmaker Chandler Levack’s full-length directorial debut, I Like Movies, is about as coming-of-age as it gets.
The indie picture follows Isaiah Lehtinen as Lawrence Kweller, a pretentious, obnoxious and self-involved young cinephile, as he navigates the pitfalls of adolescence. He lives with his worn-thin single mother (Krista Bridges), who grapples with raising an irritable teen who seemingly inherits her late husband’s depression and emotional turmoil.
Lawrence has a strained relationship with what he calls his “placeholder” best friend Matt Macarchuk (Percy Hynes White) and spends his weeknights and weekends earning peanuts at his local video store, Sequels. This is all to fund his aspirations of attending the NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and he ends up developing a one-sided love affair with Alana, a failed actor turned retail manager.
There’s something up with this movie, and it’s hard to place a popcorn butter-coated finger on what. Its Toronto International Film Festival synopsis describes it as “ultra-indie,” where I would maybe describe it as off-kilter.
It’s an ode to mid-2000s teenhood in the vein of Superbad, with the same banana-andorange-shaped duo pairing and pimply awkwardness, but with greater emphasis on emotionality and less overt sexuality. It’s perhaps in homage to this era that the film comes off brash and somewhat overbearing.
My biggest hangup with the film is the dialogue, which can be attributed to the scripting and acting. It attempts to be naturalistic with its constant injection of filler words, but the actors put so much, perhaps too much into it, that it comes off too deliberate to be real.
While the picture is guided by a steady hand with Levack, it’s hard to give oneself up to a story that feels overly rehearsed, including the way it telegraphs its pathos. The line between camp and sincerity is muddled to poor effect here.
On the other hand, it does a pretty good job of capturing the suburban Canadian malaise of the period and beyond. Most notably, its depiction of adolescent mental illness is acute, as a friend of mine tells me, of course.
The picture has just enough charm to ingratiate itself a bit over the course of the 99-minute runtime, and, at a point, the cinephiles screening it may get over their own pretensions as viewers and get to enjoying the capricious whims of this uneven picture.
There’s a hard-to-watch moment late in the film that serves as an emotional crux. A character describes their Weinsteinian sexual-abuse story in Hollywood, perhaps in an attempt to be conscious, perhaps in a cheap way to garner sympathy in the audience. It left me wishing it were in a better film.
Midway through the movie, Lawrence watches some Twilight Zone version of Full Metal Jacket featuring the worst R. Lee Ermey imitation I’ve ever heard. It’s a facsimile of a film we already know and love. The movie evokes this at the best of times. The film held my attention, but only because I was waiting for it to turn up. Instead, it’s just another movie that may or may not charm audiences.
Published in Volume 77, Number 21 of The Uniter (March 9, 2023)