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See It: “Audrey the Trainwreck”

See It: "Audrey the Trainwreck"

The New York premiere and week-long run of Frank V. Ross’ “Audrey the Trainwreck” has the benefit of coinciding and being a part of the opening of Brooklyn’s new reRun Gastropub Theatre, a smallish cinema located within the Dumbo neighborhood’s already well-established reBar. But much of the media coverage of the reRun launch is concentrated on the location, specifically how it features a bar inside the auditorium space and offers bacon-flavored popcorn among its fancy snacks. So I’d like to take this opportunity to note that the inaugural film (booked by reRun programmer Aaron Hillis, a writer and film distributor who’s no stranger to us at indieWIRE) is also quite a treat.

“Audrey” is another mumblecore take on love and life in the 20s — age range, not decade — and in a way, perhaps unintentionally, it’s something of a satire of modern slapstick-heavy romantic comedies. I mean, people will laugh at many of the awkward moments and accidents, but this is certainly no “Along Came Polly” in the way it sets up these situations. The gags and their punchlines have a more realistic context that brings out more nervous chuckles, as in you kind of don’t want to laugh at someone getting hit in the spine with a dart, than total outpourings of the sort of laughter that equates to shouting out “oh my god, look what Ben Stiller’s got himself into now!” But the fact that Ross at one point focuses on a dropped banana peel has to be proof that he means for some humor, just maybe a more ironic sort than its Hollywood counterpoints.

A lot of reviews of “Audrey” discuss its address of boredom and banality, but I was never once bored nor did I think the characters were necessarily bored either. In fact, the male lead, Ron (Anthony J. Baker), constantly reminds us that he’s pretty fine with his life and career (he reminded me of Adam Scott’s character on “Party Down” at times). So content and ordinary maybe, but not bored or boring. If anything I think the film celebrates the little bits of chaos in life that distract us away from the monotony of the everyday. I wasn’t lying when I tweeted that this film surprised and delighted me more than “Inception” did. Sure, it’s the ending that does the most in terms of leaving us amazed, but other little things build up to this grand finale of a disaster. It also had more suspense than “Inception,” because of how it constantly set us up for these falls, some of which, as in the banana case, don’t satisfy our expectations.

Part of the little surprises come from the story, but I also like how “Audrey” is about this very ordinary guy who’s being portrayed by a very ordinary sort of non-actor (Baker is an audio engineer and house painter when he’s not appearing in Ross’ films), so then he’s greatly contrasted against the occasional more-familiar-faced minor characters played by Joe Swanberg, Jess Weixler and, biggest of all, “Parks and Recreation” star Nick Offerman. Then again, this is my first exposure to both Baker and Ross, and those more familiar with the filmmaker’s work may see Baker as a familiar face, too.

I especially love the way the film tells us who Ron will end up with from among the crop of girls he goes on first dates with throughout the first half. Your typical rom-com uses an actress’ star persona as well as gimmicky meet-cute situations for establishing the female lead right away. Here, through, as Ron continues to meet and date other potentials, the film starts concurrently following the routine of Stacy (Alexi Wasser) after the couple’s first date, so we assume he’s going to come back to her. Of course it allows us to get to know her better and more quickly than Ron does, which in the story’s context is a bit unexpected. But it also means we keep thinking of their initial encounter and conversation, which helps out with one of my favorite subtle jokes right before the end.

Here’s the trailer for the film:

“Audrey the Trainwreck” starts tonight for a week-long run at Brooklyn’s reRun Gastropub Theater. Hopefully, for those of you who can’t make it out for this engagement, it will find a distributor at least for a DVD/Blu-ray release. Once you are able to see it, come back and spout your thoughts on the film.

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