Friday, December 03, 2010

AIFF 2010: Fanny, Annie, and Danny - and their creator Chris Brown

Danny's interrupted by the phone while playing computer games in his fancy apartment, which leads to a confrontation that shows us a darker edge to Danny's life.

Fanny is practicing a Christmas song on her recorder. It's pretty bad. Then someone knocks on her door.

Lady: Fanny, you can't practice your flute . . .
Fanny: It's not a flute, it's a recorder.
Lady: You can't do this at 6 am, other people are sleeping.

Fanny acts like a 5 year old, but she's clearly adult, living in a type of independent living/group house. We then follow her to work where she sorts chocolates on a conveyor belt in a near empty factory.

We meet Annie in the dentist office where her boss is telling her, over an open mouthed patient, that he's thinking of adding another 'girl'.
Annie: But I don't need any help.
Dentist: Business is expanding.
Annie: I can handle it.
Dentist: I've already placed an ad, people are coming this afternoon.
Annie:  I have an appointment, but I can cancel it.
Dentist: I can handle this, go to your appointment.

As I write this, I'm seeing foreshadowing of things to come that I didn't see when I first saw this on DVD the other night. I can also see how vividly the whole movie impressed itself in my brain. I think I could reconstruct almost every scene.

I'm not a fan of dysfunctional family movies in general, and my initial reaction was that no one could be so relentlessly nasty to her kids (even these adult kids) as the mom, and if someone were, that those who could - like the husband and Annie - would just leave. For example, Fanny, who comes by bus, gets to the house early. Mom says, "It's not 2 o'clock yet. Wait outside."  Mom has not one atom in her body that is sympathetic to Fanny.

But for the last couple of days, these characters have inhabited my head. They were so real. I can't imagine the actors not really being the characters. And I learned so much about them in 82 minutes. Though I'm still perplexed by the mom - though I'm sure there are people like her. If she hates her kids (except for Danny) so much, why do they get together for Christmas?  But a good film should leave you still chewing when it's over.  And my jaw is sore.

Fanny is a wonderful, wonderful character. A good person struggling to make her way in a world too complex for her brain. Chris did miracles to show her humanity on the screen so well
. And Annie's boyfriend, Todd, though he has problems of his own, is also thoroughly decent and talks to Franny adult to adult. And Dad is in second place only to Job.

This is a powerful movie. It's not a light parody of dysfunctional people, but more a like a serious documentary that follows them as they move toward a disastrous Christmas dinner (well Mom likes to celebrate the week before Christmas, something about less pressure). 

Anyone nervous about going home for Christmas because of family dynamics might want to check out Fanny, Annie, and Danny. I promise you, unless one of your family members gets cut up and put in the freezer, this family will make you feel good about your own. (I say this half seriously, but I want to emphasize, this is a movie that drew me right in with its absolutely real characters.  Even if I don't understand this mother (I'd like to think she's a little over the top, but maybe there are people out there like her) watching each sibling individually in their own lives and then watching them come together was riveting. 

And Thursday night I got to meet the film maker - Chris Brown - and to ask a bit about the dark characters in his film.

This film won Best US/International Narrative at the Kansas City FilmFest and Best Performance at the San Antonio Film Festival. It says a lot for the quality of the films at our festival that this one didn't make it into the films in competition. Or it might say something about the selection committee's tastes. (Don't know cause I haven't seen the films in Features in Competition.)

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