With Jeff, Who Lives At Home, The Duplass Brothers, Jay and Mark, take another cautious step towards the mainstream with this odd comedy about the eponymous Jeff and his family as a series of seemingly random occurrences lead to a unique conclusion.
Like Crazy killed on the festival circuit – and a couple nights ago, it effectively killed ninety minutes of my life.
Will Proudfoot [Bill Milner] is a member of a religious sect that doesn’t allow watching television, so when his teacher plays a tape for the class, Will has to sit in the hall until it’s over. Lee Carter [Will Poulter], on the other hand, is the school’s resident hellspawn, who is frequently ejected from class.
The day after Lee has boldly videotaped First Blood at the town theater, he is ejected from class at the same time as Will is sitting in the hall awaiting the completion of a class film. A series of incidents involving a tennis ball and a few less than white lies later, Lee and Will are on their way to becoming friends – a process heightened when a hiding Will gets to watch Lee’s bootleg of first Blood and prods Lee, a budding filmmaker, to film “Son of Rambow.” Before long, a seemingly cool French exchange student named Didier [Jules Sitruk] has become a lead in the film; Will has become cool by association, and friction develops between Will and Lee.
The parts of the film that deal with the growing bond between Lee and will, and the relationship that Brother Joshua [Neil dudgeon] tries to build between Will and his mother [Jessica Stevenson], are charming and real in a low-key way. Didier and his entourage – who have become cool by hanging with him – are a clever bit at first, but wear out their welcome before long. [A clever insight into how his fellow French students see him comes just a bit too late for us to care overmuch.]
Writer/director Garth Jennings has a knack to getting to the kernel of truth in each of his main core of characters and directs with a slightly stealthy, not quite sprightly touch. If you’re tired of summer blockbusters already, Son of Rambow will probably going to charm the socks of you.
Final Grade: B+
Anyone who has read my reviews over the years, knows that I’m a sucker for films about the creative process and precocious British kid films. Writer/Director Garth Jennings, whose last film was 2005’s “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” has crafted a small, indie film that – dare I say it? Should I say it? Why not? Is “This Year’s Juno.” It’s a smart, witty, inspiring little movie about a sheltered kid (think Amish) Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) who is introduced to movies in an over the top way. He accidentally watches a movie, not just any movie, Rambo: First Blood, and falls in love. He somehow manages to make friends with the neighborhood bully Lee Carter (Will Poulter) who is making a movie to enter into a BBC Talent competition. Proudfoot becomes obsessed with Rambo. Rambow works on several different levels, it’s a fun movie about the process of making a film.
It’s about trying to move outside of your boundaries (in this case Proudfoot’s strict religious upbringing) and how you can find friendship and brotherhood in the strangest of places. Jennings infuses this story with a thumping 80s soundtrack. The film’s two young leads successfully manage to carry the weight of this film on their shoulders. A lot of times when you have child stars in films like this, they always come across as older and more mature than they should be. But this time through Jennings strong writing and the performances, everything seems to just fit. Although this film is set in the 80s, it has a timeless feel to it. Jennings does a great job of showing us Will’s home life without bashing his religion. He clearly has a loving family that’s only trying to look out for him. The film doesn’t preach whether it’s wrong or right, it just is. If the first film that I ever saw was Rambo, my head would be turned to. While the two leads and the A story are strong, the film falters a bit when it Jennings becomes enamored of his french star Jules Sitruk who plays the too cool for the room french transfer student Didier Revol.
This is one of the year’s best films. Too bad it’s going to get crushed by Speed Racer, when it opens in limited release this weekend. I don’t know what Paramount Vantage is thinking opening this film in the busy May season.
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