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Movie Review: “Beside Still Waters” is a Promising Directorial Debut for Chris Lowell

Chris Lowell is most popularly known for his role on Veronica Mars and The Help.  But now he’s stepping behind the camera and taking a shot at directing/screenwriting.

After his parents’ recent passing, Daniel (Ryan Eggold) struggles to find closure.  He invites six of his old friends to visit for the weekend, so that they can say goodbye to the lakeside cabin they spent the majority of their childhood in.  Attending this somber reunion we have… the old flame (Britt Lower) who has brought her new flame (Reid Scott), the jackass (Beck Bennett), the free-spirit (Jessy Hodges), the high school sweet hearts (Will Brill and Erin Darke), and the TV star (Brett Dalton).  Needless to say, the weekend creates drama, rekindles a romance, and reveals “shocking” secrets.

I’m aware we’ve seen this many times before, i.e. The Big Chill, and even the recent indie, drama that came out this past August, About Alex.  So why is Beside Still Waters worth watching?  Because Chris Lowell manages to successfully portray a genuine group of friends who are struggling with their own issues while trying to be there for the one that needs them most.  This is not always the case with films that touch on the same premise.  Take About Alex; their reunion was forced because of a friend’s suicide attempt.  Sounds interesting enough, but sadly, About Alex chose to engage the audience with numerous, unresolved issues that lead nowhere versus any real character development.  This is where Lowell differs.  He keeps his storyline simple and does not veer from the growth of his characters, allowing us to care for each one of them.

Solid performances are given by the entire cast, effectively balancing their selfish tendencies with compassion.  In addition, the film fittingly includes subtle flashbacks of the group when they were kids playing in the cabin.

Beside Still Waters may not stand out as a significant film, but Lowell’s first attempt at writing and directing shows potential for great things to come.  Don’t turn your nose up at the familiarity of this movie, there’s enough authenticity and heart to make it an enjoyable watch.

Rating: 3/5

Beside Still Waters is now playing in select theaters and VOD.

“Beside Still Waters” Official Trailer HD

Movie Review: “The Skeleton Twins” Provides Enough Meat on the Bones of this Indie Gem

Girl Most Likely was a disappointing, failed attempt at the indie genre for Kristen Wiig.  So much so, that my standards were kept low when walking into The Skeleton Twins.  But, once again, Wiig’s unsurprising chemistry with another SNL alum creates an on-screen bond that immediately pulls you into their story.

The Skeleton Twins (directed by Craig Johnson, and written by Johnson and Mark Heyman) solely focuses on its two title characters.  Bill Hader channels his inner “Stefon” as Milo, the snarky, gay, depressed out-of-work LA actor.  He opens the film with an attempted suicide that reunites him and his twin sister Maggie (Wiig), who he hasn’t seen in 10 years.  Like her brother, Maggie is also unhappy, but hides her depression behind her marriage to a happy-go-lucky, Luke Wilson, to whom she has had trouble staying faithful.  Maggie insists Milo stay with them until she knows he is okay.  Milo agrees to come back to New York to live with Maggie for a little while.  At this point, the two of them attempt to revisit their past, try to make adjustments to their disturbed selves, and finally realize how important it is for their well-being to have each other in their lives.

What really makes the thematic material in The Skeleton Twins so grasping is that it has such an understanding on a siblings’ connection.  Throughout the film it’s referenced that the two had a rough upbringing, which has forced them to rely on one another since childhood.  Even though Maggie and Milo are miserable with their lives, their presence together is a silver lining.  The two not only share a bond, but also understand each other completely.  They make jokes, get high, and even have one of the best scenes this year, a sing-a-long to Starship’s “Nothing Gonna Stop Us Now.”

The Skeleton Twins’ grim tone throughout the film is balanced with its uplifting message of how sometimes the person in your life who completes you can make you realize why life is worth living.  There is also enough comic relief through Wiig and Hader’s hilarious, witty banter for you to continuously have a laugh.  Watching these two on-screen together is a rare treat no one should miss.

Rating: 4.5/5

The Skeleton Twins opens in select theaters September 19.