Ceremony (Review)

CEREMONY
(4/08/11; Comedy, Drama)
Michael Angarano, Uma Thurman, Reece Daniel Thompson, Lee Pace, Jake M. Johnson
SCR/DIR: Max Winkler
MPAA: R for some language, sexual references and drug use.
1 hour 29 mins

Sam (Angarano) coerces his estranged friend Marshall (Thompson) into a road trip to crash the seaside wedding of Zoe (Thurman), an older woman he had a fling with. It would very easy to list the ways Ceremony cribs from early Wes Anderson movies (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore) or even the Katie Holmes ensemble The Romantics.

It would be easier still to accuse first-time writer-director Winkler (Henry’s son) of taking the quirky way out of almost every road block. Honestly, who says “silly goose?” But to dismiss the film on those terms would be to overlook its gems: Thurman hasn’t been this good in years, if ever. She gives a naturalistic performance, is a mess of contradictions and never once overly theatrical.

Angarano plays Sam as a walking BS machine with the confidence of Ferris Bueller. But it’s all a sham and Angarano plays the levels of a crumbling façade well. Pace is the larger-then-life award-winning fiancée well aware of Sam’s history with Zoe and ready to make sport of him; Johnson is wonderful as Zoe’s self-destructive brother.

He only has a few scenes but steals every one. Even though Winkler chose the most well-treaded indie themes for his debut, his camera flow is fluid and the cinematography from William Rexer is rich, warm and expertly framed. (Magnolia)

— DENNIS WILLIS

Author: Dennis Willis

Dennis Willis is an award-winning producer, TV host, producer, director, editor (he preferred Avid until a torrid affair with Adobe Premiere, and the rest is history), author and film critic (print and radio). Dennis produced and hosted the TV programs Reel Life, FilmTrip, Soundwaves (1983-2008) and produces the annual Soundwaves Xmas program. He is currently the film critic on KGO Radio in San Francisco, and a member of both the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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