Monday, July 07, 2008

Kabluey


Scott Prendergast's "Kabluey" is one of those little movies that warm the heart when they get a theatrical release, and when that theatrical release actually gets some revenue, however moderate. It's also the first bone budget indie film I've seen in a while that thankfully doesn't involve some kind of coming of age road trip-which is somewhat ironic as the center piece of the film involves a road. "Kabluey" is a short, sweet, and ultimately quite hilarious little movie, which is smart enough to avoid a political message that would weigh haved weighed it down even though the device that sets in motion the entire plot. 


Lisa Kudrow stars as Leslie Miniver (perhaps a sly reference to the war torn family in "Mrs. Miniver," but that could be reading into it more than it should be), whose husband Noah (never seen except in pictures where he constantly has this snarl on his face) has been sent to Iraq for his tour of duty. Left at home with her two screaming and misbehaved children Cameron and Lincoln, Leslie is in desperate need to help. Her mother in law than comes up with the idea of sending her son Salman (played by director/writer Prendergast) to babysit for a while. Salman is down on his luck in every way possible, to the point where he tries to sell his car for two hundred dollars just to try and get a few meals. He does come willingly, and after a few days of being tortured, is given a job at Leslie's company BluNexon. Hurt in a stock market crash, the company is in a large building with a lot of office space, and Salman's job is to stand on the side of a highway road passing out fliers to rent the office space. The only catch is that he has to wear a large blue suit-the emblem of the company that isn't really much of anything-just a large blue blob. 


"Kabluey" is very thin on plot, which ends up being a positive more than a negative., despite getting minorly tedious towards the end. It's less of a plot than just a bunch of short sketches, tied together by a loose story. The furtherest it goes is giving Leslie an affair with her boss, which Salman tries to stop quickly to defend his brother. But Prendergast does have a gift for offbeat physical comedy. Researching him after seeing the film, I only recognized one title. A four minute short film that he did a few years ago called "Anna Is Being Stalked," which I remember seeing on the IFC Channel during a shorts presentation. That short you can find online through google, and I'm pleased that he was successful with his first feature. The blue suit, which could have been only used for comedy because of the way it looks, is made much funnier by what he does inside of the suit-which include having to stick his hand out of the rear to get food and drink inside as the suit doesn't have a place for his hands. 


The material here is sometimes overly quirky, a problem that I have with several independent movies, and I'm sure some of the material must have looked odd on the page. But its the performers that really elevate the material quite a bit, giving it the humanity and the realism that this sometimes extreme quirk really needs. I was mainly impressed with Lisa Kudrow, and this is her best post-"Friends" work since "Happy Endings," (although she hasn't really been given many parts, unless you want to include "Marci X.") There is also fun supporting work by character actress Conchata Ferrell and Teri Garr. The latter does her second performance in under a month (the other being "Expired) and in both cases she is given a character that deserves more time because of how well Garr plays it. Here, Garr plays a woman who screams in anger and terror every time she sees Salman in the suit because she lost her life savings when the company crashed. Not much is really done with her character, and the screenplay wraps her character up after an encounter in a grocery store. The flawed screenplay does this several times-introducing some very good ideas and than dropping them in favor of a very brisk 80 minute running time. In one segment, Salman gets a job in the suit at a kid's birthday party, and eavesdrops on the other guest who just ignore his presence not deeming him a threat. And the viewer only gets a single joke out of that which doesn't even end up being as funny as it should have been.


Despite its flaws, "Kabluey" ends up being a very effective little comedy, which is blessed with several memorable performances. Even side characters are given enough to care about, and they deliver some truly hilarious moments. I wish some of the material could have been fleshed out a bit more, but for a feature debut Scott Presdergast really does offer up hope for a follow up. 


*** of ****

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