Sunday, November 16, 2014

Movie with Abe: Beside Still Waters


Beside Still Waters
Directed by Chris Lowell
Released November 14, 2014

A lake house is a perfect setting for an ensemble film, be it a comedy or a drama. When that home has deep resonance for its guests and brings back nostalgic feelings of their childhood, it can be even more impactful. In “Beside Still Waters,” that sense of longing for better days is exponentially enhanced by the fact that this final gathering of friends comes in the wake of the car accident death of its new owner’s parents, mournfully underscoring an otherwise celebratory reunion filled with soap-worthy romantic entanglements.

This film marks actor Chris Lowell’s debut as both cowriter and director. Most people will recognize him from his role as a shirtless receptionist on “Private Practice” or from his recent stint as an idiotic brother on “Enlisted.” I remember him, however, from his debut role on ABC’s extremely short-lived “Life As We Know It,” where he played a teenage photographer in a relationship with Kelly Osborne. That classic hilarious show was all about sex and relationships, and it’s no surprise that his first time behind the camera should be similar.

“Beside Still Waters” doesn’t waste much time in bringing its characters together from the varied places they are in life, starting with Daniel (Ryan Eggold), who has to cope with his parents’ unexpected and untimely death and also with his ex Olivia (Britt Lower) making the questionable decision to bring her new fiancĂ© Henry (Reid Scott) along with her. The rest of the guest list includes a couple and a newly famous reality TV star (Brett Dalton). Romance, seduction, secrets, and betrayal predictably follow.

This is an original story about young people that feels genuine, but there’s nothing particular about it that makes it uniquely memorable or enduring. These characters all feel like variations of different archetypes, each offering a piece of a given personality and helping to show how contrasting attitudes and career experiences can mesh together. This is a specific and fleeting snapshot of their lives that permits only a brief opportunity to try and understand their motivations for their actions on a given weekend. The film’s tone is one of loose, unserious fun later made far more consequential once the weight of decisions and actions have sunk in. Lowell does seem to have interesting things to say, and his next feature has the potential to be a more lasting realization of the themes he has begun to explore here.

C+

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