IT’S BACK on screen … if you want. This year’s Indy Film Festival runs from June 15–26 and can be experienced either at Windsor Park’s Kan-Kan Cinema and Brasserie or online. Either way, you’ve got a long list of films to choose from. We took an advance look at the bulk of them. Here are the high and lowlights.
The highest-profile offering, thanks to star Patton Oswalt, is I Love My Dad. Featuring a conceit so vile it makes the Dear Evan Hansen indiscretions seem mild, it centers on a father (Oswalt) who, thanks to a long history of irresponsibility and crappy parenting, is shut out from his son’s social media. Rather than try to mend his ways, Pop decides the best way to keep an eye on his son is to launch a fake Facebook page. He pretends to be a young woman, gets engaged in chat with his son, and allows the catfishing relationship to turn both romantic and sexual. Yuck? Yep. Even worse: His son has already been established to be suicidal. Neither funny nor insightful, it’s just reprehensible.
Suffer through I Love My Dad and you may want to cleanse your cinematic palate with the sweet Róise & Frank. This Irish charmer concerns a widow who comes to believe that a stray dog is a reincarnation of her beloved late husband. Grounded performances, unobtrusive direction, lovely scenery, and a charming pup made me believe it, too.
Prefer locations closer to home? It Happened One Weekend is an elegantly shot black-and-white romcom offering a where’s-where of Indianapolis locations, including Mass Ave, Fountain Square, the Canal, and Monument Circle. Graced with playful music by area favorite Mina Keohane, It Happened One Weekend checks off most of the genre’s boxes, including best pals who obviously belong together, breakups with bad-fit partners, friends who see the potential before the couple does, and, of course, references to When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail, et al. The stakes are low here, but the cinematography is strong.
Also with a local hook is Leftover Feelings: A Studio B Revival, celebrating Indianapolis native John Hiatt’s first-time partnership with legendary sideman Jerry Douglas for a recording session in the famed Nashville, Tennessee, studio where hits by Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, and more were created. There’s a lot of praise for Hiatt as both a performer and a songwriter, along with an almost religious worship of the studio itself, but those excesses hardly get in the way of Hiatt’s heartfelt songwriting and the duo’s terrific musicianship. The fest would be wise to have the album available for sale after the screening.
For a film that provides lots to talk about on the ride home, try Jack Has a Plan. Unlike many issue-focused documentaries that overtly make clear their agendas, this one gives credence to both sides of, literally, a life-or-death issue. Jack has brain cancer and has decided that, when his health reaches a tipping point, he wants to end his life on his own terms. He asks his documentarian friend to chronicle his journey, which includes diminishing faculties, surprising revelations, and a very real conflict between those who want him to stay around as long as possible and his own desire to die at a specific time—directly after a party with friends and family. Jack Has a Plan asks universal questions by telling a very personal story. Expect to be moved and challenged.
Still having trouble deciding? You can always play it safe and catch the festival’s screening of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. Bonus: The event includes a breakfast cereal bar.
There are also full programs of shorts, from whimsical animated films to ambitious science fiction efforts. You can find a full schedule or order festival passes or a la carte tickets at indyfilmfest.org.