Last Thursday (04 November 2010) I was granted the privilege of
watching a preview of a well reviewed film on the festival circuit. The
film was EASIER WITH PRACTICE directed by feature length debutant Kyle
Patrick Alvarez and is based upon the autobiographical essay by Davy
Rothbart which was pulished in GQ.
A road movie (my first instinct was it reminded me of a younger version
of 'Sideways') following Davy Mitchell (Brian Geraghty) as he treks
across New Mexico reading at book clubs peddling his book of short
stories entitled, 'Things People Do To Each Other'. The book
clubs smack of boredom, and with his brother Sean (Kel O'Neill) in tow
the nights are long and full of bars with literature students adoring
the young writer, whilst his engaged brother indulges in
adultery. From the outset, there is a difference and tension
between the two brothers; one is intellectual, one is an easy going
spirit. One is shy around women, the other has no sort of
problems. One night at another motel, Sean goes out to get some
cigarettes and leaves Davy watching television and then the phone
rings. Davy answers it and a female voice is on the other end,
she calls herself 'Nicole' and she is horny; Davy initially put off is
intrigued and so starts entertaining her notions of masturbation.
And so we are met by one of the bravest scenes in recent American
independent cinema; the camera is fixed on Davy, initially in long
shot, it slowly zooms into have just his chest and head in the shot as
he masturbates in unison with Nicole, culminating in a mutual
Often in independent cinema, there is a greater freedom and honesty
with sexual activity (you need only see any mumblecore film for
reference), but rarely do you see a male character(actor) do a scene
that is so raw and real at the same time; a scene that could have been
so easily played for laughs, tells us a lot more about Davy than any
conversation with a periphery character. Davy is lonely, but has
love to give and finally feels like he has made a connection with
someone, albeit with a voice somewhere.
Ultimately, the film leads to a climatic scene that is again a scene of
such openness and social embarassment, the like of which is rarely seen
in American film full stop. The final reveal of Nicole is both
powerful and startling, in that the twist is the last thing you saw
There is more drama than comedy, although the laughter is more witty
than laugh out loud because of the urbane intellect of Davy's
surroundings - if you were to pigeon hole the film it would be in the
same vain as the work of James L. Brooks.
I would like to touch upon the character of Davy - whilst in theory and
genre he is a million miles from the characters of the Apatow universe,
he does provide a missing link in my theory of the 'Noughties Oh-No
man', a character very prevelant in the first decade of this century's
American cinema. He is an intellectual based on genuine talent, but
nevertheless a talent that remains undiscovered, however, he is a man
easily made a fool of by his peers and family (much like Andy in 'The
40 Year old Virgin'), and is but in context of his situation by
contrasting him with an alpha male to his beta (in this film Sean is
alpha to Davy). Unfortunately, these highlighted flaws in his
beings lead to him being unsuccessful in his career and love; such as
when he attempts to reignite an old flame Samantha in the film.
Brian Geraghty, whom I first recognised getting high with Shia Labeouf
in 'Bobby' and matured to appear in 'The Hurt Locker' gives an
extrarordinary performance from an actor under the age of 30, he is
still young in face but his manner shows a built in world-weariness
that the character requires, but the requirement of him to be in every
frame/scene of the film could have been a tough ask for a less
Alvarez who shows some assured footing in this his debut feature is
lucky to have such a performance, but his sureness of touch and feel is
good to see in a film that is both sincere and human. Some of the
scenes/montages which show Davy and Sean cruising around motorways and
motels are expertly shot and remind me of music videos in there framing
and composition, coupled with a hip indie soundtrack that full of male
voices externalise most of Davy's feelings.
There are some moments that will leave you scratching or shaking your
head in disbelief, but believe it not because you have to but because
the conviction and honesty of both direction and performance commands
it. Recommended and try and hold out for the ending, unlike the
two or so people who walked out shaking their head.
EASIER WITH PRACTICE is due for release on 3rd December 2010, a Forty
Second Production it is distributed by Axiom Films, whom I thank for
the preview seat.
Here is Jamie Garwood's interview with the director of Easier with
Practice, Kyle Patrick Alvarez:
J.R.: What would you
pinpoint as your influences/reference points for 'Easier With Practice'?
K.P.R.: Visually, I definitely took a lot of inspiration from Wong Kar
Wai, 'In the Mood for Love' in particular. I love how he'll use a
single sustained image to imply so much and trusts the audience with
his pacing. David Morrison and I also looked through a lot of
photographs and we had a wall of images that inspired us.
Was the shoot enjoyable or a
steep learning curve for you?
I had done a lot of short/student films before, so I had a general
sense of being on set and it some ways it was more enjoyable because it
was the first time I actually had worked with a full crew, where I
wasn't the director/cameraman/sound guy all at once. The learning for
me really came in working with actors, cause it was the first time I
dealt with professional actors. I always wanted to make sure to respect
them and the challenges they face, but I would say that's where I
learned the most, in learning how to talk and work with actors.
What relationship did you
have with David Morrison (DOP)?
My relationship with David was one of the strongest I had on set, and
one I'm continuing with on my next films. He's just an extraordinary
talent and works so collaboratively with everyone. It's rare to find
such connectivity with another filmmaker so I'm excited to keep on
making films with him.
Were you worried about the
pressure you put on Brian Geraghty's shoulders in terms of being on
I was never worried in terms of Brian's abilities, but just in
that we all knew that those scenes were going to be so delicate and
difficult to pull off. It's a lot to ask of an actor to sustain entire
scenes the way he had to, but Brian was always on and prepared. In
fact, the 10 minute take at the beginning of the film, was only the
second time we ran through the scene. When we were auditioning actors
for the film, we were primarily looking for watchability, that certain
thing that pulls an audience in to an actor's performance. Brian has
that in spades.
Would you change anything
now looking back?
I try not to watch my film in terms of what I'd change or not,
since I can't, but I definitely learned a lot I hope to bring with me
into my next films. Primarily on a writing level, of just learning to
reduce dialogue down it's minimum necessities. It's a challenge to put
on yourself, but so much extraneous dialogue got cut throughout the
shooting and editing of the film. I've definitely learned how to write
a tighter and more concise script.
What is next for you?
I've got two projects I'm working on and hoping to shoot in the next
year. One is a film based on a David Sedaris short story. He's been
really gracious and open about letting me adapt his work, which I'm so
grateful for. It's a dream project for me, so I'm putting my all into
it. The other is a high concept thriller, that's going to be a real
challenge and a total change of pace for me. I couldn't be more
grateful to have the opportunity to make another film.