Supporting Characters [50 New-Old Movies for the 51st Year #32]

Mid-last year, I turned 50 years old!  And to add to all the real life goals and challenges that that brings, I’ve created at least one as it relates to movies and this blog–watch a film I’ve never seen before which came out in each year of my life (thus the “Old-New” terminology), and then write a bit about it.  This is Post #32.  Spoilers ahead.  

Supporting Characters

Directed by Daniel Schechter

Release Date:  January 25, 2013 (USA)
My age then:  42 years old

What it is about:  Film editor Nick and his assistant Darryl work hard to save an independent film in the midst of a troubled production, while both simultaneously working through their own individual relationship problems.

Starring Alex Karpovsky as Nick, Tarik Lowe as Darryl, Arielle Kebbel as Jamie (the film’s lead actress), Sophia Takai as Nick’s fiancee, Melonie Diaz as Darryl’s girlfriend, and Kevin Corrigan as the film’s director.

My impressions of this movie before I watched it:  This is one of those movies I only discovered when I was researching possible films for this series. So really, I knew nothing about it except what I wrote at the beginning of the year: “A smaller film about a couple of guys editing an independent film.”

Reality: According to the internet, director and co-writer Daniel Schechter (the other writer was co-star Tarik Lowe) set out to make a really good movie for less than $50,000, and only chose editing as the subject because it was something he knew about. The actual goal was just to have two friends who worked together so they could talk about their relationships. In all of this there is so much that he succeeded at–Nick and Darryl are very real people whose ordinary lives are somehow fascinating to watch. The dramas they deal with–difficult people at work, temptations in their personal lives–are just the sort of headaches that anyone might encounter at work and at home, just slightly exaggerated for comic effect.

The structure for all of this is created by the deadline for the film that they are working on–just three weeks to take something which is clearly not working to turn it into something that does. And so while “film editing” was apparently a bit arbitrarily chosen in the writing process, it is not just shoved into the background in the movie. This is a film that is about, as much as anything else, film editors actually doing their job.

The details that that brings to their interactions creates a lot of interest, and not just because I’m a filmmaker who enjoys editing. It’s just novel to see an ordinary job like this shown with such specifics–the result is a fascinating bit of world-building which is as compelling as any grand science fiction or fantasy movie could be.

There are some really lovely moments in Supporting Characters where things are not telegraphed or spelled out for the audience but still the narrative is moving forward. It’s a type of storytelling restraint that one does not often see. And while the plot is pretty mundane, there are still surprises enough to hold one’s attention.

And the movie’s is very good. They are all new to me, which helps to sell the idea that they are people rather than characters. Alex Karpovsky is especially interesting to watch, and I’ve also got to give a shout-out to Kevin Corrigan who is understated but hilarious as Adrian, the deeply insecure and temperamental film director.

On the negative side, the are fair few sexual references (and some blatant nudity) near the beginning of the movie that would have been easily managed. And the film’s characters are often pretty unpleasant and selfish–the two leads both end up destroying their relationships because of their in-built flaws. This adds to the naturalism of the presentation, but when there is not really anyone to “cheer” for, it makes the movie more interesting than actually enjoyable.

But still, it allows the movie to to take us to an ending scene that I found to be perfect: Nick and Darryl, both of whom have lost their lovers, wait quietly in their office for the footage to arrive for their new project, which against the odds they are working on together.

So…when you get down to it, what did I think? Supporting Characters doesn’t feel like a movie I’m likely to want to revisit, but it was fascinating to see once, in spite of its unpleasanter aspects.

See here for the Master List.

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