He may not have made a good movie since “Blue Jasmine,” but Woody Allen’s influence still reaches far and wide. Whether it’s the charming self-deprecation of Greta Gerwig’s “Frances Ha,” Ingrid Jungermann’s update on “Manhattan Murder Mystery” with the soon-to-be-released “Women Who Kill,” or the whimsical surrealism of “Approaching a Breakthrough,” a new short film from writer/director Noah Pritzker.
Tightly scripted and engagingly shot, Pritzker’s short is indelibly of its time while tipping its hat to cinema’s past. Kieran Culkin plays Norman, a young man running away from his debt as well as indecision. The film begins with a nuanced argument between Norman and his girlfriend Claire (Mae Whitman) about the struggle for autonomy in romantic relationships.
As their bickering devolves, Norman is suddenly approached by his two former therapists, who wonder how he’s doing in addition to wondering where their money is. As they walk, Norman picks up others from his past, revealing his personal flaws in the plain light of day.
“The initial idea for the short was to remake the subway chase scene in ‘The French Connection,’ only instead of a detective and a criminal, it would be a psychiatrist (or two, and then some others) and a derelict patient,” Pritzker told IndieWire. He had been living in Los Angeles for a year, and “really missed the spirit of making movies in New York.” So he returned to New York in the hopes of re-connecting with collaborators who “were up for making more experimental things.”
Pritzker met Culkin on his first feature, “Quitters,” which premiered in competition at SXSW in 2015.
“He was one of the best collaborators I’d ever met. Aside from being an amazing actor, he’s really generous on set with the crew and cast,” Pritzker said. “They were all good sports, walking the stretch of Central Park over and over and over again even though it was 100 degrees in New York the two days we shot it.” In addition to the heat, the crew had to deal with a protestor climbing Trump Tower during one of their shooting days. “We had a dozen news and police helicopters hovering over our set that day.”
Heat and helicopters aside, “Approaching a Breakthrough” feels cool and assured — even if Norman isn’t. Check out the ten-minute short below, which is a Vimeo Staff Pick.