Stars: Daniel Zolghadri, Matt Maher, Miles Emmanuel, Maria Dizzia, Josh Pais, Marcia DeBonis
This tale of a middle class teenage artist trying to get a foothold in the underground comics scene marks a cracking debut for actor turned writer-director, Owen Kline. Robert (Zolghadri) is the seventeen-year-old budding artist who outrages his aspirational parents when he announces that he may forgo art college and dive right into work. Robert’s unswerving and frequently foolhardy commitment is set out in an outrageous opening sequence in which his art teacher insists that Robert sketches him in the nude with unexpected results. Robert relocates to the insalubrious Trenton, New Jersey where he moves into the boiling hot basement hovel of sweaty landlord Barry (Wright). His sketching talents are spotted by public defender Marcia (DeBonis) who offers him a job at her office. There Robert encounters Wallace (Maher) a barely socialized and ill-tempered middle-aged misfit who Marcia is defending. When Robert discovers that Wallace used to be a comic book colourist, he pleads with Wallace to become his mentor, even inviting him to his horrified parents’ home for dinner. The bourgeois kid getting out of his depth in an alien demimonde plot trajectory, may sound overfamiliar, but the level of detail in the evocatively scuzzy production design illustrates the filmmakers’ deep affection for the underground milieu and its eccentric denizens. The extraordinary-looking supporting cast look like Fellini extras as reinterpreted by Robert Crumb, while the grainy camerawork brings to mind 90s indie cinema at its most charmingly makeshift. And it’s very funny.