When discussing the Cannes Film Festival, most people look to things like the in competition lineup, or even sidebars like the Director’s Fortnight or Un Certain Regard. However, one of the unsung portions of the festival happens to be its lineup of films showing inside of the Cannes Marketplace. Films looking to find that final bit of financial backing, or find a distributor in general, often make their home here during the festival, and while a lot of them are quite small pieces, often films that will likely never see a spot in theaters, there are occasionally some true gems within this bunch. Or in the case of this trio of films, three genuinely solid, if quite flawed, little films.
First up, a film that will be playing this year’s Waterfront Film Festival (whose lineup was just recently announced, and will be covered here on the site by yours truly), a film entitled Dorfman. Following an assistant of sorts, the film looks at a woman’s life as she deals with love, family and a sudden bout of self doubt. Slight and admittedly cliché-ridden, the film is also charming as all hell, and features a couple of great performances.
Directed by Brad Leong, the film is aesthetically rather standard. Your run-of-the-mill romantic comedy, the film both suffers from its cliché-filled equation-like filmmaking, as well as thrives when those moments are really drilled in. Sara Rue kills here as our lead, Deb Dorfman, as does Elliot Gould, taking a randomly dry and sarcastic turn as her father. Their relationship is palpable and real, and adds a lot of life to an otherwise dry and clichéd feature film. Haaz Sleiman steals the show however, as the artist Cookie, a man who becomes something more than just a friend to Deb. His chemistry with Deb is fantastic and affecting, as while they come from two different worlds, their connection comes out of a place of truth so deep, that its really a wonder to see these two share the screen. Keri Lynn Pratt is fine, as is Jonathan Chase, both of whom are fine in the film, but they are wasted on a subplot that is almost nearly unwatchable.
Unwatchable is not something you’d say about the next film, Union Square, despite how intense and melodramatic the film truly may be. Directed by Nancy Savoka, the film follows two sisters who come back together after being estranged for some time, only to discover that each of them have been less than upfront with people in their lives about just what those lives entail.
Starring Mira Sorvino and Tammy Blanchard, the film thrives in the moments that these two share the screen, which for all intents and purposes, is much of the film. They are fantastic as polar opposite women from the Bronx, and their relationship is true and raw. Yes, their interchanges can come off as a tad bit histrionic, but then again, most familial interchanges can have the same be said about them. The film is shot with a great sense of realism and neo-realistic aesthetic, adding to the cartoonish sense of drama that the film really bleeds onto the frame. Slightly over-long and really quite histrionic and cliché-ridden, the film is immensely flawed, but it’s a fine bit of realistic drama that will hit home with anyone who has had his or her share of issues with siblings or loved ones in general.
Finally, on a lighter note, there is General Education. Your standard ‘student needs to go to summer school to graduate and get that scholarship but that’s harder than he/she imagined’ comedy, the film follows a teen who, yes, needs to go to summer school to graduate and get that scholarship, only to find out that it’s harder than he imagined. As clichéd and trite as that plot may sound, the film is admittedly comedic in moments, and while not all beats hit with the deftness of others, Tom Morris directs the hell out of this small comedy, with star Chris Sheffield making quite a name for himself here. Maiara Walsh is a great love interest, and it’s always nice to see Janeane Garofalo get work. The film is really slight and it is nearly impossible to connect with on any emotional level, but it’s visually well crafted, and the comedic beats are fulfilled and really quite rewarding.
Overall, these three films may not make Avengers level waves at the box office when or if they ever see the light of day, but in this summer film season, these three films are some fantastic counter programming. From sweet and charming romantic comedies to moving familial dramas to slight but fun teen comedies, these three films span genres and also make for some great watches.