We’re continuing our reviews from the 16th Annual Waterfront Film Festival today with a look at King of Herrings, Coffee Kill Boss, andthe documentary Love Child. And as always, we’d like to preface our reviews with a big thanks to the people behind the Festival for putting on yet another amazing weekend of moviegoing. Those people are great at putting the event together, and you should check out their website for more information.
Love Child – This documentary tells the story of the first prosecuted case of Internet Addiction – a couple in South Korea let their infant daughter starve to death in 2010 while they played an online game (which, in part, involved raising a virtual child). Along the way, it makes interesting points about South Korea’s Internet culture in particular and the wired world in general.
It’s not as immediately appealing as the other documentaries I saw this year, and I think that’s because it lacks a human face. The parents, reasonably, don’t participate in the film, and there’s no clear footage of them throughout. Similarly, there’s no footage of the baby. Which, again, is reasonable. People who forget to feed their child probably don’t have a lot of home videos. It’s a necessary omission, but the fact that Love Child is made up entirely of secondhand accounts makes it harder to emotionally connect.
But once you get past that, it’s really fascinating. The game footage couldn’t be more ironic if it had been created specifically for the movie. And the background about South Korea’s Internet is surprising – basically, they have the best Internet service in the world because their government decided they were going to. Over there, Internet gaming is actually a sustainable career. In the case of the couple profiled here, they played enough to earn rare and powerful in-game items which they would sell for real world money. That was their job. It’s not clear whether they didn’t know that they had to actually feed a baby or whether they didn’t care, but neither one is really acceptable.
Once you get beyond the individual case, the issues of Internet addiction and an increasing lack of connection are maybe too big to cover in a single documentary, but Love Child at least raises some questions. It’s ambitious and interesting, and while it takes some time to really engage you, if you give it the time, Love Child will get inside your head.
King of Herrings – This black-and-white film seems like it’s set in the world of early Tom Waits albums. If Foreign Affairs played in the background the whole time, it wouldn’t seem amiss. And since I love old Tom Waits albums, this is right up my alley.
A real labor of love from writer/director/star Eddie Jemison (Hung), it’s a story about four friends who drink and play cards and are often kind of terrible to one another. After a dispute over a nine-dollar poker loss, the Professor decides to seduce Ditch’s wife, Mary, to make a point. (Jemison plays Ditch and his real-life wife plays Mary.) The web of relationships is stretched to its breaking point, and there’s this increasing threat of violence the whole time. Ditch is one of those sociopaths who’s this close to an explosion of anger at any moment, and everybody knows it.
I love the anachronistic setting – the inside of Ditch and Mary’s apartment looks like it’s straight out of the fifties (including a rotary phone) and the Professor’s job is selling magazines door-to-door, which nobody has done in decades. But there are modern cars and video poker, a reference to 9/11, and Gat’s Ed Hardy shirts. It creates this lovely timelessness that I really enjoyed.
The acting is fantastic – the cast is made up of Jemison’s real-life friends and they’re all working character actors. They’ve all got long resumes on IMDB, but King of Herrings pushes them to the forefront and lets them shine. I especially loved Wayne Pere as Leon. A cancer survivor, Leon speaks with one of those electronic voice boxes but even with an electronically modulated voice, he’s no less expressive. The man’s facial expressions are just haunting.
King of Herrings features these really beautiful moments of genuine friendship, and those moments sit right next to exceptional cruelty. It’s moving and compelling, sometimes hilarious and sometimes devastating. I absolutely loved it.
I’m also pleased to report that, despite playing a bastard, Eddie Jemison is a nice guy. He actually opened the movie by apologizing for some of the language and he was very sweet at the post-movie Q&A. I got to talk to him a little bit, and he’s a good guy who really seemed to be excited to showing his movie at the Festival. Well, movies. Because this year we got an Eddie Jemison double feature…
Coffee, Kill Boss – This dark comedy stars Jemison as Henry Wood, a character who couldn’t be more different from Ditch. He’s a middle manager in over his head in this office-set update of Ten Little Indians. On the day of an important merger, the company’s interim president (Robert Forster) kills himself in his office. In order to save the deal and prevent a panic, Henry and a temp (Noureen DeWulf, who you know as Titi on Burning Love) try first to cover it up and then, after a murder, to solve this mystery that endangers all of the participants.
This movie is perfect for me. Dark comedy. Satire of office politics (I love the early scenes with everybody talking in meaningless buzzwords). Bizarre murder mystery. All things that I want to see more of. The cast is perfect – you’ve got Robert Forster and Eddie Jemison, and they’re great. Eagleheart‘s Jack Wallace appears, and he’s hilarious. (I am not proud of this, but when he first appeared, I blurted “Cappy!” out loud. Sorry, lady sitting next to me.) Noureen DeWulf is incredibly funny and appealing as the unnamed temp. She’s such a funny actress but, aside from Burning Love, she tends to end up in “hot girl” roles that don’t make full use of her talents. This is maybe the best showcase she’s had yet.
Coffee, Kill Boss gets increasingly bizarre with each murder as it seems less and less likely that any one of the characters could be responsible. Comedy mysteries are so hard to pull off because heightening absurdity is so often at odds with creating a satisfying and logical resolution, but I really enjoyed the way it played out and the way that some of the silliest moments hit when the stakes are highest. (There is a fake sex scene near the end that I adore and I’m still giggling thinking about it again.) It was easily one of my favorites of the Festival, and I was astonished to hear Jemison talk about how quickly it was shot. (Twelve days, and they’d spend a whole day shooting one half of the room rather than moving the camera to shoot the other side of a conversation. That’s bonkers and the fact that the actors seem to know what’s going on the whole time is a testament to them.) It’s the kind of movie that makes the Waterfront Film Festival such a great experience for me – something I probably never would have had the chance to see otherwise and I ended up just loving it. Coffee, Kill Boss is the kind of thing that’s going to keep me coming back to the festival year after year.
Tomorrow we’ll wrap up our reviews with Arlo and Julie, Cas and Dylan (starring spunkyfave Tatiana Maslany) and I Put a Hit on You. We’ll see you then!