Review: Moon Point
Moon Point, the first release from new kid on the block distributor IndieCan Entertainment, is waiting to be your new favourite movie. It’s a hip little film, with all the baggage that word may imply. Moon Point is self-aware, extremely cool, and comes complete with a catchy indie-stocked soundtrack; director Sean Cisterna has obviously studied indie cult classics and sleeper hits (think: Garden State, Juno, Little Miss Sunshine). Moon Point will remind you of those small and charming movies, and in the best possible way. After seeing it, you’ll be left with the feeling that you just spent an hour and forty minutes with an old, familiar friend. And you’ll be wishing you had more friends just like that one.
We first meet Darryl Strozka (Nick McKinlay) at a family barbecue in his mother’s backyard. Ostensibly a celebration of his cousin Lars’ (James Hartnett) engagement, the soirée devolves into a pile-on-Darryl session as each family member pops up, like a Greek chorus of criticism, to point out what’s wrong with his life. To quiet that cackling chorus, Darryl declares that he will bring actress Sarah Cherry (Kristen Gutoskie), his grade school crush, to Lars’ wedding as his date. Thus Darryl and his paraplegic best friend Femur (Kyle Mac) set out to cover the few hundred kilometres to Sarah’s film set on Femur’s souped-up electric wheelchair.
It’s a hero’s journey! It’s a road movie! Both are familiar cinematic territory, for sure. Darryl and Femur pick up a cute girl, Kristin (Paula Brancati), along their route and the trio ends up encountering exactly the motley crew of quirky, odd, and downright psychopathic personalities you might expect. But Moon Point is charming (it almost dares you not to like it) and instead of feeling tired, the road movie/hero’s journey construct feels comfortable, like a favourite t-shirt. Cisterna did not design his movie to confront this familiar yet difficult terrain, but rather to guide viewers through it.
What is that terrain and what exactly are Darryl’s problems? Nothing special, really. Just the same disaffection and wandering aimlessness found in every twenty-something who stands poised between a seemingly halcyon childhood and the complicated realities of adulthood. Cisterna does a superb job of illustrating this tension with soft and golden flashbacks of young Darryl’s love for Sarah Cherry, juxtaposed with the grotesque and distorted faces he encounters on his road trip. Moon Point ultimately provokes a profound nostalgia in the viewer. However, this is not a nostalgia for an over-idealized childhood, but rather for that moment in time just before adulthood moves in and makes itself at home when it was still possible to believe in a daydream. Darryl, like all twenty-somethings, eventually learns that success might not take the shape of riding in on a white steed and winning the girl, but might actually be something like landing a low-paying PA gig on the girl’s film set.
Moon Point is a small movie with small characters who are trying to carve out a small niche in the world. This is may sound like a kind of criticism, but it isn’t intended to be. In a time of contracted economies and contracted expectations, in time in which many people are realizing that, even in aggregated groups, they don’t mean very much individually, the scope of Moon Point feels exactly right. Darryl has to travel a long way on his friend’s electric wheelchair to learn that you rarely get what you want, that you occasionally find what you need in unexpected places, but that you always have to make the most of what you do find. Moon Point is a reminder that things do generally turn out okay, if not spectacularly great.
At one point in the film, Femur says to Darryl: “It’s always about what we can’t do!” That’s a generally true statement about life, but this film not only articulates that peculiar longing we all feel but can never articulate, it is also designed to be a kind of shared reference point. You can go see Moon Point and you can bring all your best friends. It’s well-stocked with the kind of quirky dialogue and funny references you’ll repeat in late-night conversations, at least until you find your next new favourite movie.
Moon Point opens February 3, 2012 at AMC Yonge and Dundas. The cast and filmmakers will be available for a Q&A session after the evening screenings on February 3 and February 4, 2012.
This piece was originally published at www.thetfs.ca.