Welcome to Music News & Rumors‘ 2021 Nashville Film Festival Review Hub, which will be a place to find all of MNR’s reviews for the titles that I screened as part of the festival this year!
Cast: Karan Soni, Geraldine Viswanathan, Aparna Nancherla, Zenobia Shroff, Mark Duplass, Jeffery Self
Director: Roshan Sethi
Screenwriters: Roshan Sethi, Karan Soni
Runtime: 86 minutes
It’s a movie set during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but I promise it’s not another pandemic movie. There is so much more going on here that isn’t related to a scary new disease that you might even forget it’s taking place in mid-March 2020. A boy and a girl are set up on a pre-arranged date that was organized by their strictly traditional Indian parents, and that won me over already. Add in that Ravi and Rita are then forced to shelter-in-place together for 7 Days, and it only gets better from there.
These two characters could not be more opposite. Tavi is The level of awkward is sometimes too real to imagine. Karan Soni and Geraldine Viswanathan share the screen so well, and their performances really benefit one another. Co-producer Mark Duplass’ voice makes a surprise appearance in an equally surprising role that will make you chuckle and want to hurl at the same time.
The whole story essentially takes place in a single location the entire time, but it utilizes those constraints so well. It deals with cultural expectations, breaking free from tradition, millennial love, pandemic life, and, yes, it all takes place over the course of 7 Days.
Hard Luck Love Song
Cast: Michael Dorman, Sophia Bush, Dermot Mulroney, RZA, Eric Roberts, Melora Walters, Brian Sacca
Director: Justin Corsbie (his feature film debut!)
Screenwriters: Justin Corsbie, Craig Ugoretz
Runtime: 104 minutes
This ambitious film combines a variety of genres into one with it being a crime-thriller-love story based on a song written and recorded by Todd Snider. Michael Dorman plays a musician who’s down on his luck and spends his days in and out of roach coach motels between bad decisions. It really plays up the “based on the song” aspect of it, and I liked the idea that we could take a song and make a full-fledged film out of it without it feeling cheesy or too over the top. There are plenty of “based on a exceptional true story,” “based on the best-selling novel,” and “based on the critically-acclaimed play,” but there just aren’t many “based on a song” movies out there. We’ve all seen a movie or two or three about a struggling musician trying to make it, but this one does things a little bit differently by throwing in some high stakes aspects of crime and a few exciting thrills that not only reflect the story of the song but also work to elevate the rest of the film.
Michael Dorman and Sophia Bush’s chemistry is one of the best parts of this movie. They are so convincing and their relationship feels authentic when it looks like they’re not even trying. RZA delivers a fun role here in his debut film appearance, and it just further proves his exceptionally wide range of talent.
The first half of the film takes it time laying out all its cards, but then the second half comes in and wraps everything up a little bit too neatly. There’s addiction, gambling, and romance — all of which are very unpredictable things — but it ends up playing out a little bit too straightforward. The soundtrack is incredible. The performances are really something special. The cinematography reflects the same gritty content of the story, and I thought it all just really worked together in a very cohesive way.
Potato Dreams of America
Cast: Tyler Bocock, Marya Sea Kaminski, Lea Delaria, Hersh Powers, Jonathan Bennett
Director: Wes Hurley
Screenwriter: Wes Hurley
Runtime: 96 minutes
This reminded be of Jojo Rabbit, at least in the beginning, and I believe that is going to be a somewhat common comparison made among a few people. Jonathan Bennett’s role was… surprising? to say the least. I went into this pretty blind so I didn’t know who his character was, and it’s probably going to be the most talked about thing from this movie.
There were some odd stylistic choices, and the topics they covered felt very familiar, so it doesn’t feel fresh all the time. The schtick of the first half is played up to be an almost comical portrayal of the Russian family lifestyle, and that actually worked pretty well. We then move to a more familiar feeling when the film morphs to its new American locale with its disoriented immigrant characters taking on new challenges.
It was just a little overly ambitious and trying to do too much all the time. It tries to be a dark comedy and a coming of age story and an autobiography and a story about the fall of the USSR, and, and…
At its best, Potato Dreams of America does a good job handling a young gay boy coming out in the time of Soviet Russia, as well as a Russian immigrant assimilating into the United States’ culture with the dream of becoming an American filmmaker.