Movie Notes: Brick
= 5 stars
Starring Joeseph Gordon-Levitt, Nora Zehetner
Directed by Rian Johnston
High school loner Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) investigates the murder of his ex-girlfriend.
- Interesting combination of film noir and teen movie, that works a lot better than it should. Belonging to particular clique, Brendan proves a capable detective, able to traverse many different social scenes looking for clues. Familiar school archetypes translate reasonably well to stock crime characters (jocks as heavies, theater girls as molls, a popular girl the femme fatale, and a nerd character sporting James Dean spectacles). But the analogy has an underlying, psychological reason: teenagers tend to be self-absorbed, as if they’re starring in their own personal movie. Perhaps the whole movie is filtered through Brendan’s eyes.
- Solid directing – simple film techniques in support of the story – space for actors, quick cuts for action, and interesting visual composition bringing a new perspective on every day settings (one scene with a ray of light and a mirror struck me as fairly brilliant). Even more amazing: this is director Rian Johnston’s first movie, created with a budget of half a million, and filmed around the his home town of San Clemente, CA.
- Two notable performances: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Nora Zehener as the femme fatale. The mystery’s worthwhile payoff plays out quite magically between two actors on a football field between a mountain of dialogue.
- Some grim humor in all these shady proceedings happening under the noses of parents and other clueless adults (Twin Peaks, River’s Edge.
- Early scenes feel rather disjointed; it takes a while to realize where things are headed.
- Other than the two leads, the cast of largely unknown, inexperienced actors occasionally sink things to drama club rendition of Chinatown.
Could have easily gone wrong in so many places: a small budget, new writer / director, a risky premise, no known actors – but it all works out quite magically, due to capable, inventive direction supporting a solid film noir story. By the final scene, I was invested in the characters and the film earned that final star. Director Johnston is on my watch list.
Rotten Tomatoes: Brick