Movie Review

Film Review: WILD CANARIES (2014): A Film Noir Nod That Doesn’t Pay Off

Wild Canaries (2014) Film Review, a movie directed by writer/actor Lawrence Michael Levine, staring Lawrence Michael Levine, Sophia Takal, Alia Shawkat, Jason Ritter, Annie Parisse, and Kevin Corrigan. This film has a lot going for it. It’s a story about murder, so naturally there is some suspense, there is a sprinkling of comedy; there is plenty of story built around and about relationships (pseudo love triangles, lesbian love, parental love/obligation and love gone bad), and then there’s just plain everyday adults’ having to navigate life. But that’s also the problem. There are just too many story lines that don’t pay off.

The opening sequence draws you in, and from there – well not so much! And the worst part of the movie is the ending; because just in case the viewer didn’t quite follow the chain of events, the actors literally walk you through the movie explaining it step-by-step. I suspect that this film is a comedic take and a nod to that wonderful time of film making known as film noir (think The Maltese Falcon or Double Indemnity). Film noir typically has a convoluted and/or complicated story lines. You’d have to be a true film buff, and probably a film historian, to be able to recognize these elements and roots in Wild Canaries. Even armed with that information, the film doesn’t work in the 21st century. It serves as a nice reprieve from the 3D, CGI action films that dominate the box office but Wild Canaries needed more. More quirkiness thrown in, more completed story lines, or perhaps even more twists and turns to the murder. Perhaps some voice-over from the main character and a little more brooding might have been helpful.

I was never completely drawn into the film enough to care about doing some of my own murder-mystery fact finding. In fact, not once did I ever really care about figuring out who the murderer was. Perhaps if I did care, that would have helped me with the ending because then I would have wanted and appreciated the explanation.

As far as the acting went, it was good and all the characters were interesting and had solid story lines. Jason Ritter played a great lowlife while Alia Shawkat and Annie Parisse both played lesbians and did it without any of the stereotypes – which was nice to see. The main characters were the problem. Noah and Barri didn’t have the chemistry required to pull off this kind of film.

I think Wild Canaries is an example of a well-structured, well-written script that could have benefited from having more seasoned actors; especially for the two lead roles.

There will be a good many viewers who this movie will appeal to. I unfortunately was not one of them.

Rating: 5/10

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About the author

Thomas Jenkins

For Thomas, a perfect day is getting up at the crack of dawn, going for a long run and then spending the rest of the day watching films or reading about film.

Thomas holds an M.A in Independent Film from Staffordshire University.

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