SLIFF 2009 Review: SPOONER
The prospect of moving out of our parents’ houses and venturing out into life on our own is usually either an exhilarating relief or adventure we look forward to or, for some is perhaps the most frightening experience of their lives. For Herman Spooner, it ends up being both. Drake Doremus co-wrote and directed this charming indie dramedy about finding love when life feels like it can’t get any worse.
Matthew Lillard (SCREAM, THIR13EN GHOSTS) plays the lovable loser Herman Spooner, but everyone just calls him “Spooner”. Herman, I mean… Spooner, lives at home. He’s about to turn the big 3-0 and his parents have put their collective foot(s) down and set a deadline. HermanSpooner is to move out on his own by the time he turns 30. For Spooner, who is less than stellar at his job as a used car salesman, working under the oppressive regime of his prick boss Stan Manfretti (Shea Whigham) is anything but accommodating to his situation.
Facing unemployment and homelessness, Spooner happens to meet Rose Conlin (Nora Zehetner) stranded on the side of the road after her car breaks down. Being the good-natured person that he is, Spooner stops to help Rose with her car but ends up quickly smitten with her and embarks on a hopeless pursuit of what he believes to be true love. Despite all the crap that is thrown his way,Spooner still somehow manages to keep his cool and remain mostly positive.
SPOONER has more layers to it that it first appears on the surface. Sure, its a funny story, but the humor is mostly on the dry side with plenty of those awkward, uncomfortable moments that SteveCarrell and Larry David have turned into a mainstay of comedy. This is more than just humor, as Spooner is a good guy that just hasn’t figured out what life is all about just yet. Sort of like how in junior high some of the boys feel a tad embarrassed when the girls hit their growth spurt early and find themselves looking down on the runts of the male species.
The relationship that slowly develops between Spooner and Rose is a quirky, but wholly satisfying and tender experience. The audience already knows all about Spooner, but Rose has to figure him out, one piece at a time while the audience figures Rose out. Spooner is every bit one half Forrest Gump and one half Napoleon Dynamite, while Rose more of an intellectual. She is contemplative, but not to be outdone by her cuteness and kind demeanor. The two compliment each other, but it takes some time for them to fully realize this.
The film features many pitch perfect moments, drawing upon that “ah, how adorable” sensation without dumbing down and cheapening the chemistry between the two characters that Lillard and Zeheter make work so well. I especially enjoyed the scene when Spooner spends the night in Rose’s hotel room and the interaction that takes place. Rose has a bit of dialogue here that shines and is followed by a wonderful little scene of Spooner “practicing” his spooning technique.
SPOONER features an impressive soundtrack of indie rock, none of which I had heard of before and adds just the right musical touch to the various scenes. Lillard, whom some may say has fallen off the edge recently, offers up a commendable performance in a role that is unlike much of his previous work. Spooner’s dad is played by Christopher McDonald, a face in which I hadn’t seen in a while and welcomed back with open arms. While his role as Dennis Spooner wasn’t sizable, he brought a certain flavor to his scenes that added dimension to Spooner’s little world.
Not all of the supporting performances were stellar, but overall SPOONER is a film that is difficult to pick apart. The movies offers a range of emotional moments, from smiling happily at Spooner’s innocent attempts and flirting with Rose to eye-covering, nail-biting moments of uncomfortable terror as he says or does something completely stupid. He has some touching moments with his dad and with Rose and I especially appreciate the ending, which is an upper, but not in the traditional typical formulaic studio rom-com sort of way.
SPOONER will screen at the Tivoli on Saturday, November 14th at 7:15pm during the 18th Annual Whitaker Saint Louis International Film Festival.