Bob Byington

Austin Cinematic Limits

I know you are all wondering which local film was my favorite at SXSW 2012, and though I know that you know that by asking that question you are placing me in a very awkward position because I do not like to play favorites I will oblige your request nonetheless. Kid-Thing. There, I said it. Are you satisfied now? I suspect I will find a severed horse’s head in my bed courtesy of Jonny Mars (America’s Parking Lot) and/or Bob Byington (Somebody Up There Likes Me) as early as tomorrow morning. Thanks a lot! Well, can I backtrack and say that they were all great?

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Billed as “a deadpan fable about time sneaking up on and swerving right around us” by the SXSW programmers, Bob Byington‘s Somebody Up There Likes Me is boring twaddle masquerading as something more exiciting and more important, thanks to a barely hidden high concept conceit that frequently make the production just look sloppy and inattentive. The film and its often blank-faced lead, Keith Poulson, are without any of the charm and cheekiness of Byington’s previous films, namely the lovely and funny Harmony and Me. Poulson’s Max Youngman is a typical shiftless twentysomething – a waiter, he doesn’t appear to have many life or professional goals and, personally speaking, he’s not doing so hot either. His ex-wife (Kate Lyn Sheil) doesn’t want to get back together, which she proves handily by having sex with another dude within minutes of Max leaving her house. Max’s only friend is his waiter co-worker Sal (Nick Offerman) who, even later in the film after over thirty years of friendship and a number of job changes, Max still calls “the waiter.” A slightly spur-of-the-moment date with co-worker Lyla (Jess Weixler) appears to signal a positive change in Max’s life, and thus the film, but while Somebody Up There Likes Me tracks decades in Max’s life and innumerable changes, there’s little actual evolution to be found.

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