It can be kind of awkward when you become friendly with someone who labors in the arts and you're not familiar with their work. The filmmaker Erin Greenwell has been a neighborhood friend of mine for a while, and we've had constructive discussions about movies, and she's been kind enough to offer me very useful advice on some of my own projects, but it was only recently that I got to see My Best Day, her 2012 film that premiered as part of the "Next" program at the Sundance Film Festival of that year. As you might imagine, I looked at it with some trepidation. I had heard good things about it; John Anderson, who's also a pal and whose critical judgment I consider very sound, wrote very positive things about it for his Variety review when it screened at Sundance. Still. You never know. As I say, could be awkward.
So I'm happy to report that I found My Best Day delightful. It's a small-town-set comedy that has a very credible sense of place to it—something that hardly happens at all these days in movies either studio-made or independent. Greenwell pitches her depiction of this environment perfectly between lyric-pastoral-potential (let's take a walk by the railway tracks) and you-could-be-bored-to-death-out-here (let's lie down on the railway tracks) perspectives; it's a perfect place for her characters, whose quirks stem from ostensibly postmodern identity issues that were likely always pertinent, but just never discussed in the Norman Rockwell days. Rachel Styles' Karen, raised by her mom, works as a refrigerator-repair dispatcher, and at the beginning of the single day covered by the movie—the Fourth of July, as it happens—gets a call from a household she believes is that of her biological father. So begins her odyssey, for which her helpmate is Ashlie Atkinson's Meagan, who had planned on spending the day figuring out whether she was going to stray from her long-term girlfriend or not. The folks they meet on their journey are in a sense kindred spirits in that they're all looking for a home, or at the very least some relief from a problem they believe makes them unique. Greenwell's point is that everyone's a misfit in some way, and it's through recognizing that fact that we can forge true community. But the movie makes its point the best way possible, through engaging you with the characters, and it does this via brisk writing and excellent performances (the cast also features Kate McKinnon, who's been making a big impression on Saturday Night Live recently). The direction is also very assured: Greenwell's aware that her human story is also a little on the fanciful style, and she doesn't try to disguise that with faux-gritty cinematography; her visual style is crisp, alert, attractive.
The movie is getting its first New York theatrical run at the ReRun Gastropub Cinema starting tomorrow; check it out there if you're able. The movie's website, which will update you on how to see it and when, is here.