Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:41 pm 
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EDIE FALCO AND JAY DUPLASS IN OUTSIDE IN

The rawness of new lives

In Outside In, Lynn Shelton focuses on Chris (Jay Duplass, who co-wrote), a 38-year-old man just released on parole to his little working-class Washington State hometown after 20 years in jail. It's a really tough adjustment. (At the party for him given by his brother when he first got released he threw up from the stress.) Though he's living with his brother Ted (Ben Schwartz), the only person in the world who really matters to him is his former high school English teacher, Carol (Edie Falco), whose years of effort secured his release and who was his main support all the years in prison. A loving mentor relationship in prison is one thing. Encountering Carol on the outside is different. Her marriage to Tom (Charles Leggett) may be cool and sexless but she's in it and she's responsible for her teenage daughter Hildy (Kaitlyn Dever). Chris and Carol are powerfully drawn toward each other, and she is changing just as he is, but life and their circumstances are in the way.

Lynn Shelton and the Duplass brothers made mumblecore movies. This one is more mainstream indie. It deals with nothing but simple, tough issues. There is an intensity beyond the mundane. This is a bare-bones production, without visual or plot frills - save maybe some surprise environmental art made by HIldy. If it succeeds, and it certainly does on the most basic levels, it's because it's painfully sincere without veering too much into the predictable or conventional.

Edie Falco is the epitome of the painfully sincere. What's more, she is plain, and as Carol points out, "almost old enough" to be Chris' mother. And he is, though very much a suffering man, somewhat a case of arrested development, having been robbed of all those years of living and growing he was due between age 18 and now. He may be out of tune with many things, though what he comments on is cell phones, smart phones, and texting. And he is probably shocked to find contemporaries not reading books such as Carol assigned him to read in prison, but instead watching idiotic behavior on videos broadcast from the Internet onto their TV using wi-fi. Some progress.

For much of the way through, all Carol says in her scenes with Chris is No, but maybe Yes. He openly (to her) is in love with her and wants her. But he too is under constraints, those of his parole. Even drinking a beer is dangerous. He can't get any kind of job but cleaning up the highway for a while. His only ride is a little cruiser bike from when he was 18. When he goes on his first big ride on it, it's a moment of joy that's both touching and sad. Ted has saved everything in the garage - and Chris moves in there - but that also emphasizes how he's frozen in time. Meanwhile from the day Chris applies for a job at a restaurant where Hildy turns out to work, a pull between him and her, competing with his loyalty to Carol, also begins to grow. At least she feels a kindred outsider vibe in him that she needs.

Mike D'Angelo may be right when he says in his AV Club review that Outside In is "the sort of earnest, conventional movie that many indie directors could make (and many do)," But there's an important difference. Tempered and enlarged by intervening work in TV, the Duplass brothers and Lynn Shelton here blend their mumblecore simplicity with "earnest, conventional" material to make something more plangent and undiluted than a conventional indie picture.

There is no Little Miss Sunshine charm or cuteness to mitigate this movie's quietly momentous sequence of scenes. Shelton and her dp don't go for poetry. Outside In has a low keyed landscape of cheap clapboard houses, small fast food joints, gas stations, and the odd fuzzy glimpse of mountain. The score is minimal. Edie Falco's tense earnestness is touching. But Jay Duplass is even better. He's never had a role as solid as this, and he handles it with a quiet restraint that's moving and believable. His Chris seems at once lost and deeply rooted - often floundering, but doing his damndest and not going anywhere. His character illustrates how having nothing can be a kind of strength. It's the focus of the patient back from near-death, or the recovering addict whose hitting bottom has scared permanently straight. The title "Outside In" conveys the sense of coming from another world but being in the new one to stay.

As the film ends things are hopeful but open-ended. The movie nicely conveys a sense that everybody has moved forward. But whether this has taken Chris and Carol toward or away from each other isn't clear. It's a quietly unusual ending that's abrupt, yet satisfying. It's not clear at first blush if this movie's quiet story will linger long in memory, but the acting clearly will.

Outside in, 109 mins., debuted at Toronto Sept. 2017; also at Goteborg, SxSW, Sun Valley. Limited US theatrical release 30 Mar. 2018, in NYC at Quad Cinema , Internet 3 Apr. Metacritic rating 76%.

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BEN SCHWARTZ AND JAY DUPLASS IN OUTSIDE IN

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KAITYLN DEVER IN OUTSIDE IN

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