Today's guest post is from David Brendel. I was walking down 6th avenue Saturday morning past the IFC Theater and overheard some guy bitching about the ticket price: "$12.50?!? Are you fucking kidding me? Whatever happened to matinees? They got matinees at the AMC." Whether or not he was right, it wasn't the cashier's fault, who was taking the brunt of the rant.
I paused to eavesdrop, and to read the blown-up review of "Daddy Long Legs," the story of an irresponsible, abrasive father who sounded a lot like the guy grumbling at the cashier. The crank proceeded to buy a ticket to "Daddy Long Legs," and I followed suit.
Directed by the Safdie brothers, "Daddy Long Legs" has just been booked for a second week at IFC, and it's the ideal place to see the film, whose reckless father has a day job as a projectionist at the theater. The line between fiction and autobiography is thin to begin with, and the fact that it's shot at IFC blurs the line even further, and for the better.
The film is a collaboration between the Safdies and grumblecore auteur Ronald Bronstein, director of Frownland. Bronstein helped write and edit Daddy Long Legs, and has delivered the father character as a vivid, unstoppable force. There's an improvisatory quality to his performance that feels hyper-real; unsettling, compelling.
Set some time in the early 90's when people still used pay phones, the film has an old-school / winter-in-New York / Sidney Lumet look that feels timeless. It conjures the past, but feels fresh, agile, new.
A brief prologue flashes at the the movie's start, dedicating it to the filmmakers' father, making it clear that we're not getting a "poor me" kind of memoir. Instead it's a sympathetic portrait of an unsympathetic man, unsuited for fatherhood. Yet, judging from the quality of the film, he must have done something right.
I watched the "Daddy Long Legs" again on Sunday, "on demand," and with a back-to-back comparison, would recommend catching it on screen if possible, and "on demand" if it's the only option. It was worth the $12.50.