Friday, December 20, 2013


By all rights I should probably not be recommending this 2011 film to you, but I'm about to enthusiastically do so anyway. The acting in Alex Ross Perry's second film is, for the most part, pretty slipshod – except for, ironically, Ross Perry himself, who plays the male half of a dysfunctional brother/sister combo caught in their own deranged personal and family psychodramas during a brief east coast road trip. "THE COLOR WHEEL", filmed in black and white 16mm, is often disjointed and rough, and reminds me more of the sort of entries into second-tier film festivals that get rejected outright, rather than as something one might pay $10 to see at your local indie screen.

And yet – it's quite a gas; a film with two horrifically unlikable people who say off-the-cuff things in their improvised dialog that stay with you. I saw four films in the space of three days recently, and this is the one I'm still thinking about. The snarky, messed-up sister, played by comedienne and Jewish-themed "jew-elry" maker Carlen Altman, pops off with some of the most ridiculous and non-genuine phrasings ("Ooh la la" is repeated many times, usually out of discomfort) that nonetheless make her a character that – no matter how horrible a person she is (and she is), you still root for at some level because she's just so quirky and damaged. She's recently broken up with her much older professor boyfriend, and needs to retrieve her things from his place. She imposes upon her semi-estranged brother (Ross Perry) to drive her there. He's just as damaged; in a going-nowhere relationship, without job prospects and wholly devoid of self-confidence to boot. Awkwardness ensues.

The two of them can barely tolerate each other for three-quarters of the film, and have all sorts of meaningless and hurtful arguments with each other (which are nonetheless quite comedic). A weird party in which both of them are mocked and put upon by some blue bloods helps to establish a sort of loser bond between them, which sets us up for what I think both of us would certainly agree (once you've seen it) could be called a surprise ending. I almost stopped watching after about 20 minutes, but am thrilled I hung in there. "The Color Wheel" exists on the outer edges of indie film marketability, yet at its core is a disturbingly sweet look at two stunted losers who truly deserve each other.