Review: ‘PHIL’, Greg Kinnear’s directorial debut is now in theaters and On Demand.

**Closing Night Film – Sarasota Film Festival 2019**

Phil, a depressed dentist whose life is falling apart, is shocked when one of his patients, a man who seemed to have the perfect life, kills himself. Determined to find out what would drive a man who had everything to end his life, Phil pretends to be a handyman and integrates himself into the dead man’s life, befriending his wife and daughter. How long can Phil keep up this double life when he is already ready to end his normal one?

Happiness is the ever elusive prize in life. Depression is a monster. As one man’s seemingly perfect life comes to an end, another attempts to find out why in question of his own mortality. PHIL is a story of the pursuit of happiness and what that even means.

Greg Kinnear, playing both the film’s director and titular character, is a man on the literal edge. After becoming enamored with the joy of one of his patients, he resorts to following the man until he discovers him hanging in the middle of the forest. Why would someone who has it all end his life? Phil is obsessed with answers. Kinnear, as always, is charming and grounded. There is something in this man’s eyes that makes you want to listen to him, to care for him, to experience what he experiences. Alongside an enormously talented ensemble, including Emily Mortimer, Jay Duplass, Luke Wilson, and more, PHIL explores the things in life that make us connect with one another; Stories, memories, new and old, family and friendship. Learning to not live vicariously through others is a lesson we can all take to heart. PHIL has an unexpected script and it is pure delight. This film is about growth and the exploration of self. It’s a real gem and all involved should be proud to share this story.

Quiver Distribution will release the comedy PHIL in Theaters, On Demand and Digital on July 5, 2019.

 PHIL marks the directorial debut of Greg Kinnear (Little Miss Sunshine, As Good As It Gets).  The film features an all-star cast including Kinnear, Emily Mortimer (Mary Poppins Returns, HBO’s “The Newsroom”), Jay Duplass (Amazon’s “Transparent,” Hulu’s “The Mindy Project”), Taylor Schilling (Netflix’s “Orange Is The New Black,” The Lucky One), Kurt Fuller (Midnight in Paris, Anger Management) with Luke Wilson (Legally Blonde series, Old School) and Bradley Whitford (Get Out, ABC’s “The West Wing”). The screenplay was written by Stephen Mazur (Heartbreakers, Liar Liar).

Review: ‘ADULT LIFE SKILLS’ finds humor in overwhelming darkness.

ADULT LIFE SKILLS 

**Winner of 2016 Tribeca Film Festival’s Nora Ephron Prize**

Anna (Jodie Whittaker) is comfortable living in her mom’s garden shed making funny videos all day, but as she approaches 30, she starts feeling the pressure to move on and “grow up” without compromising her youthful spirit.

There is something whimsical about Adult Life Skills that takes hold of your heart. Jodie Whittaker plays Anna, a woman on the brink of turning thirty living in the backyard shed of her family’s home. Attempting to hold on tight to her childhood, she pushes back on growth as she is still reeling from the death of her twin brother. Reliving her relationship through the wonderfully absurd movies they created together for their website, Anna reluctantly takes a lonely neighbor boy (whose mother is dying of what we presume to be cancer) under her wing. Through his growing attachment, she learns to assess her emotional journey and come to terms with her reality. Whittaker is charming and honest. Each beat has depth and humor under the very real sadness. The surrounding ensemble of female family and friends pushes Adult Life Skills to the next level of indie darling. It’s a creative film version of depression. It delves into the mind of sadness with a visually interesting and fully uniquely fleshed out storyline The soundtrack is catchy and haunting as hell. On the whole, Adult Life Skills is simply lovely.

In Theaters and On Demand January 18, 2019 

Starring: Jodie Whittaker (“Doctor Who”) and Edward Hogg (“Harlots,” “Misfits”)

Written & Directed by: Rachel Tunnard

Review: ‘CHRISTMAS, AGAIN’ is a true NYC character study.

 Factory25Logo2.jpg

Presents
CHRISTMAS, AGAIN

Starring Kentucker Audley and Hannah Gross
Written, Produced & Directed by Charles Poekel

Christmas, Again poster

The holidays inevitably spark memories of both the good times and the bad. We often think of those we’ve lost, while trying desperately to cling to every last minute of holiday spirit. Some love the season. Some think it the worst time of the year. In Charles Poekel‘s CHRISTMAS, AGAIN, we are treated to both sides of the coin. Kentucker Audley Christmas againSynopsis:

For a fifth consecutive December, a heartbroken Noel returns to New York City to work the night shift at a sidewalk Christmas tree lot. Devoid of any holiday spirit, he struggles to stay awake during the long, chilly nights in his trailer, while the daytime traffic keeps him from getting any real rest. As he slowly spirals into despair, he comes to the aid of a mysterious young woman in the park. Her warming presence, matched with some colorful customers, help rescue him from self-destruction.

Hannah Gross Christmas againKentucker Audley owns every minute of screen time as Noel. This organically written character of Poekel‘s allows Audley to give a down-to-earth performance of a young man we all know to well. Tackling depression, loneliness, longing, and emotional survival, Christmas, Again is a such a success in it’s honest simplicity.There are no fancy car chases or explosions. The story is straight forward and beautifully quiet. Hannah Gross gives a lovely performance as Lydia. A little lost, a little sad, but very much a real person. The chemistry between the two characters is a slow and realistic build, again, thanks to Poekel. He never pushes too hard, there are no gimmicks or exploited moments we’re used to in a typical holiday blockbuster. This indie is fresh and easy. Combined with the calling card cinematography of Sean Price Williams (Listen Up Phillip, Queen of Earth), the film has a gorgeous added intimacy with it’s single handheld camera and use of close ups. All involved should  be extremely proud of their work. I applaud the departure in tone and style. While I certainly enjoy a good, old fashion Hollywood role call such as The Coopers, CHRISTMAS, AGAIN is a comforting film that has an incredible amount of heart and relatability.

FACTORY 25 will release CHRISTMAS, AGAIN at the MoMA in New York (and exclusive SVOD on Fandor) on Thursday, December 3rd, and  Los Angeles on Friday, December 11th.

Interview: Amy Koppelman, author and screenwriter of ‘I SMILE BACK’ tells us where Amy ends and Laney begins.

AmyKoppelmanBeautifully insightful, generous human being, and honest writer, Amy Koppelman now has three books and one screenplay under belt. Her novel, I SMILE BACK just opened in theaters, a film she developed for the screen with her screenwriting partner, Paige Dylan. After her first novel A Mouthful of Air, Koppelman used her own life as a rough base for the lead character in I Smile Back, Laney, immaculately portrayed by Sarah Silverman on the big screen. I got a chance to sit down with Amy last week, and pick her brain.

Liz: Firstly, congratulations, to both you and Paige on bringing such a bold and honest story to life. Thank you for tackling a subject we tend to try to hide rather than seek help for. I would love to know, where does Amy end and Laney begin?

Amy: All the thoughts and fears, the self-loathing, the doubt, the sadness, all of those, I own those completely. The ways in which they manifest in Laney and in me, that’s where things diverge. I’ve been sleeping with the same guy for 25 years…

Liz: So her outwardly self-destruction and addiction.

Amy: Exactly, that’s not me.

Liz: Did Brian (Koppelman, Amy’s screenwriter/director husband) actually help you at all with the transition from page to screen?

Amy: Well, he’s very helpful in the sense that he actually kept me alive and got me better for so long, and yes, of course, he was helpful. He gives great notes. It’s like, what more could you want but a great screenwriter in your house. I mean screenwriting for me is a completely different muscle than novel writing. It uses a completely different skills set and some people can do both with fluidity. For me, it’s counter-intuitive to the way I write, so he was very helpful.

Liz: Do you think it’s easier to “write what you know” or is that more of a challenge?

Amy: I don’t know because for years and years I just wrote without thinking about what I’m writing… I mean I knew that when I was writing I Smile Back I wanted a write a story about a woman and about how everything she did was based on fear, that she was so anxiety ridden about hurting or being hurt by the people she loved that she almost preemptively strikes against them. Because even if everything goes right, even if they don’t leave her, somebody at some point will die and that’s just, you know… I always think that by the time you’re five and you realize that everyone you love is going to one day die, it’s amazing that every five year old doesn’t run into traffic. So, I just write and write until I hit a scene and think, “Oh, that’s what I’ve been trying to write to.” … It’s not that I know the answer to that, I just write from the inside out, I guess.

Liz: Yeah, I don’t think that there’s an definitive answer. Sometimes it’s a hindrance to  know too much or you don’t want to reveal too much. Sometimes it’s cathartic. Every piece it sort of it’s own thing.

Amy: Yeah. I do know that when I write, I don’t hold back anything. I don’t care how I’m judged or what people think of me. It is the most unadulterated part of myself.

Liz: It’s great. It’s very accessible. It’s unapologetic so it’s unfiltered. It’s very relatable.

Amy: Maybe not for everyone?

Liz: But I think in some way, you’ve either known someone who’s like that, or perhaps feared to become that person?

Amy: Yes! That’s what I think it is. You know, when people ask me about redemption, I don’t understand that question because for me, redemption comes for the viewer or the reader, for the person who is experiencing it. I know the reason that I read, or the reason that I watch films is so that.. the thing that moves me the most is when someone is able to articulate a thought or feeling that I’ve had that I haven’t been able to put into words. Sometimes that I didn’t even realize I was having and it makes me feel so much less lonely. I hope that I Smile Back can do that for some people. Make them feel like they can identify themselves in the character or someone they love in the character and either help that person get the help they need, or realize like Josh Charles (who plays Laney’s husband Bruce in the film) ultimately has to, that sometimes, no matter how much you love somebody, you can’t make them better.

Liz: That’s why I loved the ending so much, because it’s honest and real. (SPOILER ALERT- *scroll down if you haven’t yet read or seen the film) It’s real life. Things don’t get wrapped up in a bow.

Amy: We’ve come to expect that somehow and some of the bad reviews have been very angry about the ending, “It just ends in the middle of nowhere!” And I thought, well, I don’t think it ends in the middle of nowhere, it just ends there. It wasn’t some ploy to be cute or something. That’s just where it ended for me. Maybe Laney can get her shit together.

Liz: And who knows? And you let that story just sort of live in the ether and I thought it was awesome.

(SPOILERS ALERT OVER!)

Liz: I  also thought there was an interesting comment on this cultural need to fake it through your day. But also, as a Mom, to sort of lose your “self” to family obligations. Two really big things… especially in the city!

Amy: Yeah. I think as women, at some point, we do feel the need to put people at ease. Not all women, but I do think that is a trait more inherent to women. To kind of make things right, so I think that for Laney, if she can keep her family okay, and keep her kids okay, and keep her demons to herself, then maybe they can all be safe.

Sarah Silverman I Smile Back stillLiz: What was in Sarah’s voice, when you heard her on Howard Stern? Was it a tone or something she said?

Amy: It’s funny, I’ve been tempted to listen to the interview again, because someone told me it was online, and I thought, “I don’t actually think I should listen to it again.” There was just something in the tone of her voice and I can’t explain it except for like it happens a couple times in your life, you have a moment of magic, like when you fall in love, ya know? I just thought she’d understand me. She would understand Laney and what I was trying to explain with Laney. I do believe that as writers, or carpenters, or teachers, or just human beings, we just want to be heard and understood. So, my first inclination was just to get the book to her because I thought, “Oh, she’s gonna understand me and that in and of itself felt like a real victory.” The fact that she got it, and opened it and read it, well that was a real miracle.

Liz: So, Postpartum Depression, in the past couple weeks, has gotten a little more attention than it normally gets. Which I think is important. I have a lot of  friends, who have just given birth and who are also pregnant, and clearly that is a huge fear. You just don’t know if and when it’s going to happen.

Amy: Every woman, to varying degrees has.. it’s very emotional when you have a child. I mean the hormones in your body, the estrogen, there is something called Baby Blues which isn’t Postpartum Depression and so postpartum depression is just like baby blues, that just doesn’t go away, it gets worse. I started writing [ A Mouthful of Air] 20 years ago, it was impossible to get published, and I think every single agent in NYC rejected that book and they all said, “No one wants to read about this.” I remember, I’m so sick, that when Andrea Yates killed her children, I don’t know if you remember that? I remember seeing it on the cover of Newsweek and calling one of  the agents and going, “See?! This is a real thing!.” And she said, “Well this isn’t going to make it any easier for you, it’s going to make it worse.” So, I’m really happy to see that people talk about it more now. When I wrote that book, people say it’s a book on postpartum, I never even knew the words postpartum depression even existed. I just thought it was a variation on the theme of depression. I didn’t know there was this separate world of this kind of depression. I remember after writing the final scene… I remember going online and reading, I don’t even think it  was Google, I think it was Ask Jeeves!… it was the first time I saw the words “postpartum depression” and it was on a very rudimentary site where some mother was writing about how her daughter had killed herself, not the child. Slowly through that book, I met a lot of people who were working really hard to bring awareness. It’s much better that people know to look out for it. People know with their friends, they can spot it. They know the difference between when the person is having emotional stuff happen because they have just had a baby versus, “Oh, that’s something different.” And they need an different level of help. A Mouthful of Air is actually out of print now but you can get it for free on my website. (www.AmyKoppelman.com) You can print it out at home or you can get it as an eBook. I might as well have it there, because the most rewarding thing for me, even though I don’t sell a lot of books, is when I get letters from psychiatrists or from people who say, “I gave this to my patient’s husband, so that they could understand what’s going on with their wife.” Or, “I gave this to my patient’s mother so they could help get their child to take medication.”

Liz: I think that’s so generous of you.

Before they steal you, HESITATION WOUNDS! (Amy’s new novel) I think it’s  so interesting that you’re coming from a psychiatrist’s point of view in this respect. I think that’s a really interesting way to tackle the subject of depression.

Amy: I think that one of the things that Susa Seliger says, (The main character in the novel) she says that even though she knows so much about the human mind, it doesn’t really help her in terms of being a human being. It doesn’t make it easier for her to deal with regret and fear and mourning and anger. The guilt for having survived. And, I hope you like it!

hesitation wounds coverHESITATION WOUNDS Synopsis:
The new novel by the author of I Smile Back, now a film starring Sarah Silverman.The acclaimed author of I Smile Back, Amy Koppelman is a novelist of astonishing power, with a sly, dark voice, at once fearless and poetic. In her breathtaking new novel, Dr. Susanna Seliger is a renowned psychiatrist with a specialty in treatment-resistant depression. The most difficult cases come through her door, and Susa will happily discuss medication or symptom management but draws the line at messy feeling. Her mantra and most fervent anti-prayer, and the undeniable fact of her past is that the people who love you leave.But the past is made present by one patient, Jim, whose struggles  tear open Susa’s hastily stitched up wounds, and she’s once again haunted by the feeling she could have saved those she’s lost, including her adored, cool, talented graffiti-artist brother. Spectacularly original, gorgeously unsettling, Hesitation Wounds is a wondrous novel that will sink deep and remain—powerfully, transformingly, like a persistent scar or a dangerous glow-in-the-dark memory.
i smile back posterI SMILE BACK  is in theaters now and will be On Demand this Friday, November 6th.

Hesitation Wounds comes to shelves tomorrow, November 3rd!

Review: ‘I SMILE BACK’ is Sarah Silverman’s game changer.

Presents
i smile back posterSarah Silverman has been making us laugh for ages now. Her raunchy comedy style is beyond funny. Though, we’ve never seen her in a role like the one she plays in I SMILE BACK. As a mother of two children, insurance salesman husband, massive house in the burbs, Silverman plays a woman on the edge of a cliff. This film is not funny. Sarah Silverman I Smile Back still So many mothers try their damnedest to attain a facade of perfection. Doing it all, every day, can take its toll. Even more so  if underlying issues bubble to the surface and collide head on with mental illness and addiction. Silverman‘s character, Laney, has a routine. Hubby wakes her up as he is heading out the door. She rises, makes her kids their personalized lunches, breakfast, gets them to school… then all hell breaks loose in her world. Faking it through the moments has become the bane of her existence so pills, alcohol and sex become her destructive outlet. When the cracks begin to show and the fun wears off, Laney’s sporadic outbursts among the masses, and worse, the ones she knows intimately are simply the beginning of all the walls imploding around her. The film tackles so many touchy subjects unapologetically. Based on Amy Koppleman‘s novel (which she adapted for the screen along with Paige Dylan) I SMILE BACK pulls no punches in parading Laney’s self destructive behavior for the audience to cringe along with. Whether or not we’ve experienced addiction first hand, we all know someone who has. Depression doesn’t have a magical cure. Bruce, Janey, son, Josh Charles, I smile Back stillSarah Silverman should, hands down, get an award for this performance. Do not for one minute think that was an easy performance to pull off. It is raw, dirty, unglamorous, and very real. If this doesn’t open up an entire new avenue for her career, then shame on Hollywood. Sharp tongued and effortlessly pointed, Silverman owns this film from minute one. Josh Charles as supportive husband Bruce is no throw away character. Endlessly in love with his wife, knowing full well what she is capable, there are moments real truth is revealed. Through brief remarks, side glances,even if he tolerates her behavior, he does not condone it. His portrayal is incredibly realistic in each moment. He never asks too much of her but strives for her happiness even if it means making unpleasant family decisions. It is an unafraid performance. Laney and dad Sarah Silverman still from I smile Back
I Smile Back not only tackles addiction, depression,  mental illness, but breaking the patterns that have been, and are being, passed down generation to generation. The film is brave. The script is bold. It will leave you with a sense of reality some may not be ready to accept. Audiences will be lucky to dive into this film head first. We’re very proud to recommend I SMILE BACK.

I SMILE BACK open tomorrow, October 23rd in NY at the Angelika! Available On Demand November 6th.
Laney is an attractive, intelligent suburban wife and devoted mother of two adorable children. She has the perfect husband who plays basketball with the kids in the driveway, a pristine house, and a shiny SUV for carting the children to their next activity. However, just beneath the façade lie depression and disillusionment that send her careening into a secret world of reckless compulsion. Only very real danger will force her to face the painful root of her destructiveness and its crumbling effect on those she loves.
Starring: Sarah Silverman, Josh Charles, Tom Sadoski and Mia Barron
Directed by: Adam Salky
Written by: Amy Koppelman (based on her novel) and Paige Dylan
Running Time: 85 minutes
Rating: R
#ISmileBack

Review: ‘QUEEN OF EARTH’ is stunning portrait of a maddening descent.

Queen of Earth PosterMelissa and I were privileged to be invited to a special screening and Q&A of Alex Ross Perry‘s fourth feature, QUEEN OF EARTH, a deeply unnerving psychological drama. The film traces the relationship between Catherine (Elisabeth Moss, MAD MEN) and Virginia (Katherine Waterston, INHERENT VICE), best friends who retreat to a lake house after Catherine’s father dies and her boyfriend leaves her. Desperately seeking rest and recovery, when Catherine arrives at the cabin, she’s overwhelmed with memories of time spent at that same house with her boyfriend the year before and finds herself unable to decompress. As Virginia begins spending increasing amounts of time with a local love interest, Rich (Patrick Fugit), what was once closeness between the two women pivots toward hostility and resentment, sending Catherine into a downward spiral of delusion and madness. Read More →

Liz’s Review: ‘Beside Still Waters’ is charming reminder that we’re not alone.

beside still waters posterAt some point or another in time, we’ve all failed to be there for friends. All gotten so wrapped up in our own lives that the ones who most count on us somehow fade into the background. In Chris Lowell’s directorial debut, we find just this scenario.  Best Still Waters is a story about love, friendship and the ties that bind us together.

Daniel has just lost his mother and father. As he spirals deeper into depression, his childhood friends show up for a weekend away at his parents’ lake house. Each carrying their own baggage, they must come to terms with the lies they tell each other and themselves once reunited. Very much inspired by the 80’s classic The Big Chill and reminiscent of this year’s Tribeca Film Fest favorite,  About Alex, Beside Still Waters deals with “what if”s and “what might have been”s. Reality swiftly punching each character in the gut or to be more specific, slapping them in the face.

beside still waters Read More →

Liz’s Review: ‘Rocks In My Pockets’ – The extraordinary weight of sadness and madness.

rocks in my pockets poster

Mental illness is a hot button issue these days. We pretend to address it but if we’re being honest,  we continue to sweep it under the rug. In a brand new film by writer/director Signe Baumane, we follow the true story of her familial heritage, specifically with undiagnosed bouts of severe depression. Read More →