Friday, June 07, 2013
subUrbia (1997 film)
Directed by Richard Linklater and written by Eric Bogosian from his own play, subUrbia is the story about a group of young adults hanging around in a corner to meet with an old friend who has become famous as they deal with their own issues and resentments toward their old friend. The film is about growing up as individuals in their 20s are dealing with their own lack of progress while some are eager to leave the dreary town they live in. Starring Giovanni Ribisi, Steve Zahn, Nicky Katt, Parker Posey, Jayce Bartok, Amie Carey, Dina Spybey, and Ajay Naidu. subUrbia is a riveting yet compelling drama from Richard Linklater.
The film takes place in the span of an entire night at the corner of a convenience store where a group of people in their 20s are set to meet an old friend who has become a famous musician yet not everyone is eager to bask in over their friend’s success. The film is really about a group of people stuck in a Texan suburb where some of them haven’t done much with their lives as some aspire to do things while there are those who aren’t sure what to do. Once their famous friend arrives to hang out with them, resentments and jealousy occur where some think they know more but are really just fooling themselves. Most of the story takes place in the corner of a convenience store where its owner is annoyed the presence of these people as he is already set to have a college degree in engineering.
Eric Bogosian’s screenplay takes it time to introduce many characters and their aspirations while it is set mostly in the night where all these characters come together at this convenience store corner. Leading the pack is Jeff (Giovanni Ribisi) who is this man who is very intelligent but is unsure about what to do with his life as he’s become very cynical as he is always talking about whatever as his bitterness is already troubling his relationship with his performance artist girlfriend Sooze (Amie Carey) who wants to leave her small town to go to New York City. Among their small circle of friends includes the hyperactive pizza boy Buff (Steve Zahn), the recovering alcoholic Bee-Bee (Dina Spybey), and the depressed and bitter Tim (Nicky Katt) who just got kicked out of the Air Force.
When the film’s second act features the character of Pony (Jayce Bartok) who arrives with his publicist Erica (Parker Posey), it creates this sense of humor and sadness where some are happy to see Pony while others aren’t. Jeff and Tim are among those who have some resentment towards Pony while the latter is also taking his anger out towards the convenience store owner Nazeer (Ajay Naidu) who is annoyed by the presence of these kids. Yet, Tim would do something in the third act that would drive some of the drama that would prompt Jeff to see if he needs to be loyal to Tim or tell the truth but what happens only have him confused while Nazeer is aware of Jeff’s worth in life but the film’s ending would play into Jeff’s failing as a person.
The direction of Richard Linklater is quite simplistic as he sets the film largely in this Texan suburb near Austin where it’s a place that looks like any small town in America. Yet, there is an intimacy to the direction where Linklater creates a feel that is quite theatrical where it largely takes place at this convenience store corner. The direction is often very loose in its compositions with some wide shots and close-ups while the drama while putting his actors into the frame to create a sense of theatricality in the setting. There also some wild moments in the film including some serious ones such as the ending which revolves around Jeff’s friendship with Tim and everything he’s been through in the course of the day. Particularly as it would also involve the sense of wasted opportunity that Jeff has presented himself with his life. Overall, Linklater creates a very engaging yet brash film about uncertainty and ambition.
Cinematographer Lee Daniel does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography with the use of lights to create a mood for many of the film‘s nighttime exterior scenes as well as a few moments in its interior settings. Editor Sandra Adair does nice work with the editing as it‘s mostly straightforward with a few rhythmic cuts to play out the intensity of the drama. Production designer Catherine Hardwicke, with set decorator Keith Fletcher and art director Seth Reed, does terrific work with the minimal set pieces from the look of the convenience store to Tim‘s van nearby.
Costume designer Melanie Armstrong Fletcher does good work with the clothes as it‘s mostly casual to play up the sense of small town life. Sound editor Tom Hammond does wonderful work with the sound to capture the atmosphere of the locations including some of the intimacy in the van and inside the convenience store. Music supervisor Randall Poster creates a fantastic soundtrack that largely consists of alternative music from the 90s from bands like Ministry, Skinny Puppy, Sonic Youth, the Flaming Lips, Girls Against Boys, Beck, Elastica with Stephen Malkmus, and Boss Hog along with Gene Pitney’s Town with Pity that opens the film.
The casting by Alycia Aumuller and Judy Henderson is superb for the ensemble that is created that features an appearance from Samia Shoaib as Nazeer’s wife who carries a gun early in the film during one of Tim’s drunken threats. Parker Posey is excellent as Pony’s publicist Erica who is intrigued by Pony’s friends while Jayce Bartok is terrific as Pony as a guy who’s made it but admits that it’s not all that fun. Dina Spybey is great as Bee-Bee as a friend of Sooze who is currently going through withdrawal from alcohol as she is unsure about what to do next as drawn to Jeff’s cynicism. Ajay Naidu is brilliant as Nazeer as a man who calmly deals with the presence of Jeff and his friends while he takes some time to get to know Jeff though he’s more annoyed by Jeff’s lack of progress and the antics of Buff.
Steve Zahn is excellent as Buff as this hyperactive pizza boy who seems to be a dimwitted individual yet is someone with some aspirations to become a filmmaker. Amie Carey is wonderful as Sooze as a woman who is very ambitious about her work as an artist as she wants to get out of small town much to the dismay of Jeff. Nicky Katt is amazing as the troubled Tim who deals with being kicked out of the Air Force as he vents on everything he’s been through while doesn’t seem to have a care in the world for anything or anyone. Finally, there’s Giovanni Ribisi in a marvelous performance as Jeff as a young cynic who is unsure about where he’s going with his life as he is someone with brains and talents but is often too insecure about his gifts making him bitter towards those around him.
subUrbia is a remarkable film from Richard Linklater and its writer Eric Bogosian about the trials and tribulations of growing up. Thanks to its ensemble cast as well as superb soundtrack, it’s a film that plays into the sense of uncertainty that was prevalent in the 1990s that still resonates with people who are unsure about themselves. It’s also a film that explores those who are unwilling to take the next step as they often lose the chance to seize the moment that could get them what they want. In the end, subUrbia is a brilliant film from Richard Linklater.
Richard Linklater Films: It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books - Slacker - Dazed & Confused - Before Sunrise - The Newton Boys - Waking Life - Tape - School of Rock - Before Sunset - Bad News Bears (2005 film) - A Scanner Darkly - Fast Food Nation - Me and Orson Welles - Bernie (2011 film) - Before Midnight - Boyhood - Everybody Want Some!! - The Auteurs #57: Richard Linklater Pt. 1 - Pt. 2
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