EIFF Day Two – Skeletons & High School

In order to make sure I don’t totally fall behind and just end up not bothering writing these blogs I’m going to try and keep these reviews short and to the point – then again that’s like me writing a blog without a big waffly opening paragraph that doesn’t really serve a purpose other than to  help knock up the word count; some things are just never going to happen.

Lets kick off then! First up Skeletons, which enjoyed it’s UK premiere the day before I saw it. Right off the bat, this film feels like it shouldn’t really exist; sounds odd I know but it’s as though this film has been made by highly skilled people on next to no budget – an equation that doesn’t really add up. Following on from that the entire premise of the film – two gents travel round delving into people’s deepest secrets to disclose to significant others amongst other reasons – is so seemingly unfamiliar that you soon forget you’re watching events unfold in the English countryside on a micro budget and get lost in the whole thing. The two main characters (played wonderfully by Ed Gaughan and Andrew Buckley) feel as though they have a real dynamic between them – a relationship which drives the majority of proceedings. Oh and I feel a mention of Gaughan’s Bulgarian needs to be made. It’s in even parts impressive and hilarious – I asked in the Q&A after the film had finished from where he had learned to speak it, to which his reply went something along the lines of “from a recording of a friend of a friend of my sister’s brother in law”, it’s this kind of creativity and resourcefulness I don’t think you’d find in a big budget movie, which is a real credit to Guaghan and the rest of the film’s crew.

The real crowd pleaser in the movie though is bound to be the character of The Colonel, portrayed wonderfully (and mostly bizarrely) by Jason Isaacs (better known to most as Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter franchise). This is a performance so steeped in nuance and idiosyncrasy that I feel it would better deserve a posting all to itself  – but I’m far too disorganised to do that right? Regardless, Jason is a joy to watch whenever he’s on screen, despite it being a little difficult to understand what he says at times;  that’s a criticism that can be levied at the whole cast however and there were a number of occasions when I was a bit lost with what was going on or being said – maybe that’s just because I’m an idiot though?

More than anything though I was swept up with the romance and the fantasy of this film which is in equal parts hilarious, intriguing, mysterious and, perhaps most importantly, creative – in case you haven’t figured it out already, I had a ball watching this film. If I were to try and lay any criticism on it, it would be that the ending feels perhaps a little too schmaltzy and out of sync with the tone of the rest of the movie. However when you deal largely with themes of existentialism, memory, regret and secrets, I guess anything goes.

This film only has a really limited UK tour which can be found here – I urge you to check if it’s showing round your area and go and see it and whilst you’re watching it remember to ask yourself one thing: Is it an epic breakfast?

Later the same evening I headed across town to the International Premiere of High School. Thankfully this film is a little easier to sum up. What you have here is your basic stoner high school (forget the pun) comedy with the usual cast of stereotypical characters; the straight laced students, the jocks, the wasters and so on – thankfully the film does have a little trick up its sleeve that stops it slipping into way over familiar territory; through very tenuous circumstances everyone in the school, student and teacher alike, gets really high (hence the title), so we have the regular mix of toilet humour, inappropriate language and awkward social situations only involving a wider range of characters than usual (hearing Yeardley Smith describe how she imagines her glass dildo being Bryan Adams’ penis is something I’m not likely to soon forget).

Somewhat inevitably the narrative follows its expected scene to scene progression right through to the ninety minute mark where everything is wrapped up all tight in a neat little package. It was only afterwards that (with some helpful reminding) I realised that one of the major drivers in the plot hadn’t been resolved and that kind of really annoyed me. I get that this isn’t supposed to be a high brow, majorly involved comedy – but at the same time it’s just basic narrative construction and it feels real sloppy after the fact. Without wanting to get over critical, (after all everyone comes to Casta for the whimsy right?) there are two really great things about this movie. Correction, two great performances. Adrien Brody is great as Psycho Ed, a far throw from his more subdued performances in the likes of The Pianist, the Darjeeling Limited and The Brothers Bloom amongst others (something that I think we’ll see more of with the impeding release of Predators), adding much needed immediate threat to proceedings. The other stand out performance was from none other than Michael Chiklis – one need look no further than The Shield to get a good impression of this man’s range but this comedic performance is way ahead of his performance way back when in Daddio (anyone remember that?) – he is in equal parts pathetic, menacing, caniving, frustrating and just plain creepy. There were certainly moments where I laughed during this film, but they would most definitely have been reduced by about half if it weren’t for the two performances above and part of me wonders if anyone else could have delivered them quite as effectively.

I heard someone say that High School, being a film about weed, would be miles funnier if you were stoned. Truth is, most comedies are – so I wouldn’t really put a lot of stock in that. Nevertheless this remains a fun piece of potentially rentable entertainment, but not a lot more.

Well you weren’t really expecting short and to the point were you?


2 Responses to EIFF Day Two – Skeletons & High School

  1. […] wake up call) than when it finally came around, I was a little underwhelmed by it all. Similarly to Skeletons there’s a happy ending attached, and in terms of the story I kind of get why it’s there […]

  2. […] Hello friends; as I’m sure you all know, Chris of the Wakeman is currently without internet, but that doesn’t mean no new audio Casta content for you, oh no! Chris recently had a sit down interview with Nick Whitfield, the director of British film Skeletons – which I reviewed at the EIFF here. […]

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