IT WAS THE COOLEST ROOM in the house and I am not talking about temperature. As you walked in there was a closet on your left that was long and narrow. Past that was a perfectly square room with only one window near a corner. Around the entire space were vinyl albums; most of them were lined up vertically, filling up bookshelves that were on every wall. Any flat surfaces, such as the top of a dresser or bookcase, had record albums stacked on top of them. It was like walking into a treasure trove of musical history. There were different genres of music to satisfy almost anyone; from classical to Broadway musicals, opera to blues, Top 40 to Jazz. No matter what type of mood one was in, they could always find something among the shelves of records to satisfy themselves. The other thing that stood out in this room was the record player; yes, an actual record player. It was a rectangular box covered in cream colored vinyl that stood on a short pedestal. With a clasp on top, once it was opened it would allow two speakers to swing out on hinges like a double door revealing a turntable that one would need to pull down like a Murphy bed. OUTSIDE OF THIS ROOM THERE was another place I found that had even more vinyl records. It was a small store situated between a clothing store and a barbershop, on a commercial street in a residential neighborhood. More times than not there was at least one cat lounging in the front window. Walking inside the place was like entering a concert hall; there was always music playing from a set of speakers that were hanging in opposite sides of the space. The proprietor was a balding man with a thick beard. Everyone thought he was a genius. You could recite one line of a lyric and he would know what song it was from. If you told him which artist you liked, he would ask you if you heard about another artist that was similar and then go find their album to show you. He had arranged the store with rows of bins without any breaks; so, once you entered a row you could only exit it at the ends. On the walls he had hung posters, all were of musical artists and none of them were hung straight. I had almost forgotten about this store until I saw this film festival winning, musical drama. THEIR LOVE OF MUSIC MADE a special bond between Sam Fisher, played by Kiersey Clemons (Flatliners, Dope), and her Dad Frank, played by Nick Offerman (The Founder, Parks and Recreation-TV), just as his record shop was closing and college looming for her. With Ted Danson (Made in America, Body Heat) as Dave, Toni Collette (Hereditary, The Sixth Sense) as Leslie and Sasha Lane (American Honey, Shotgun) as Rose; I thought this was one of Nick’s better roles. This charming story had a script that was easy with little surprise. Maybe because I admire Toni, I wished the story had incorporated more of her character. Granted she was a secondary character, but I was left feeling there was unfinished business and that is all I will say about it. Kiersey was excellent; I especially enjoyed the songs her character sang. Part of my hesitation for giving this movie a full endorsement had to do with the continuous one level of emotional depth that came across the screen. Sure, there were some touching spots in the story but overall there was not enough drama for me. If nothing else though, I certainly got a kick out of seeing Frank’s record store and listening to some decent music.
2 ½ stars
Maybe it takes a passage of time for one’s perceptions to evolve out of a wider base of experiences. Now when I look back at my school years, though some of them were brutal, I see there were parts of it where I was fortunate. Having gone to school at a time when students were not considered bull’s-eyes I can only recall one incident where a student had died. He was the brother of a classmate who was 1 year behind us in school. There were rumors about what happened to him but it appeared as if he had killed himself. Outside of that the only thing that came close was one student who was an epileptic who had a seizure in the middle of a class and another who was a hemophiliac. I remember when the teacher spent half of the morning explaining to us what it meant to be a hemophiliac; we were told to be very careful around her, especially during PE class and recess. As you are probably guessing this was before the HIPAA law came into effect. In regards to these 3 individuals, it was the only time where the different factions (it is the only word that does justice to what my school was like) in the school came together. Whether one actively sought out a faction or was judged and placed in one; after seeing this stellar film, I think all schools have the same factions. FORCED by his mother to go visit a classmate recently diagnosed with cancer Greg, played by Thomas Mann (Project X, Beautiful Creatures), had no idea what to say to Rachel, played by Olivia Cooke (The Signal, Ouija). Not interested in his pity Rachel and Greg had nothing in common except not being part of a particular group in school. Her journey through her illness would blur the lines. This film festival winning comedic drama was this generation’s coming of age story. With cast members like Nick Offerman (We’re the Millers, Parks and Recreation-TV) as Greg’s dad, Molly Shannon (Analyze This, Life After Beth) as Denise and newcomer R J Cyler as Earl; everyone was believable and gelled so well together. The bond between everyone was cemented by the intelligent script that had street smarts. As I sat in the theater watching this movie, I had various school memories popping up that were similar in theme to what I was seeing on screen. With the outstanding directing that beautifully blended in the absurd, sad, happy and uncomfortable scenes; I was swept into the story of this film and enjoyed nearly every minute being involved with these students. Wow, I wish I could have said the same thing about my time spent during my school years.
3 2/3 stars
Two of my constant companions during my adolescence were awkwardness and self-consciousness. Besides a case of acne and dealing with a body mass larger than my frame, I suffered from thick hair sprouting up on my face. I know I am not the only one who had to deal with these changes, but what made me want to be invisible was my dermatologist–that is what the state license crookedly hanging on his office wall said he was able to practice. I was constantly suffering from a rash of red bumps that kept appearing on my neck. The dermatologist determined they were flat warts and treated them with a cauterizing needle. In other words, he would burn them off my neck. I had a schedule of appointments where I would have this done and return to school with my neck looking like it had been attacked by a swarm of bees. You can understand why I wanted to disappear. Adding salt to the wound, I found out a few years later they were not flat warts, just ingrown hairs. I could sympathize with the young adults wanting to disappear in this quirky film. Fed up with the lack of privacy from his sarcastic father Frank, played by Nick Offerman (Sin City, 21 Jump Street), Joe came up with a plan to run away to a place where he could set the rules. Agreeing to go with Joe, played by Nick Robinson(Melissa & Joey-TV) was his best friend Patrick, played by Gabriel Basso (Super 8, Alabama Moon). Joining the best friends was the oddball Biaggio, wildly played by Moises Arias (Nacho Libre, Hannah Montana-TV). Fitting somewhat into the coming of age genre, what set this movie apart were the adults in the cast. Besides NIck’s wickedly good performance there was Megan Mullally (Smashed, Will & Grace-TV) and Marc Evan Jackson (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, The Slammin’ Salmon) as Patrick’s parents Mr. & Mrs. Keegan. I enjoyed the out of kilter vibe in this Sundance Film Festival nominated comedy and if for nothing else, the story lightened up my mood from recalling my adolescence. Stay for the credits.