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Florida Film Festival 2014 movie reviews

Not sure what flicks to catch at this year’s fest? Use our reviews as your guide

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'American Jesus'

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'The Babadook'

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There’s nothing wrong with a timeworn plot, but scenes between Dyer and Vack feel like acting exercises carried out with the thinnest of improv skills. The dream sequences and montages of Davina taking pictures or wandering Northern California with Sterling capture her emotional life beautifully – the images of cartwheels and lace dresses and stuffed animals are nothing new to anyone who’s seen Tumblr, yes, but they’re quite skillfully executed. Meyerhoff shot Unicorns on film – an extreme rarity today, and in fact she used some of the last 16 mm Fuji film stock ever manufactured – lending the movie exactly the hazy, washed-out, glinty-squinty atmosphere it requires. Her manipulation of the look of the film is masterful.

Meyerhoff has said that the plot is quasi-autobiographical; almost any woman could tell a story like this one from her teenage years, and that’s both its weakness and its strength. Unicorns is a true love-it-or-hate-it, impossible to rate – some viewers will adorn it with five sequin-covered stars, and others will give it one big eye-roll. If you want a warm bubble bath of Rookie-ready daydreams, then the trite story won’t matter – it’s just the framework for the pictures, like a fashion-mag editorial spread. But if feeling like you’ve seen. This. Movie. A hundred times already outweighs your enjoyment of the scenery, best to steer clear. – JBY

I Feel Like Disco
★★★ (out of 5 stars)

Program: International showcase
For a film that often hits quite hard, I Feel Like Disco (Ich Fühl Mich Disco) has an odd title. But, then again, everything about Axel Ranisch’s German-language dramedy is odd.

Florian (Frithjof Gawenda) is a teenager who loves nothing more than disco and his mom (Christina Große). Struggling with both his sexuality and his relationship with his father, Hanno (the very funny Heiko Pinkowski), Florian can always find solace with those two loves of his life. But when a family tragedy and a new male acquaintance turn his and his father’s life upside down, they must learn to balance their fantasy with reality.

“Life is not always fries and disco, I’m telling you here,” a disco star sings to Hanno, in one of the film’s many funny and strange moments. “Sometimes life is just a bottle of beer.”

Not all of the quirkiness works, as some clumsy and tonally odd moments detract from the honesty, but Ranisch’s film, with its unique balance of heartbreak and surreal laughs, is one of the more charming and original international films of this year’s fest. – CM

Ilo Ilo
★★★ (out of 5 stars)

Program: International showcase
If spoiled brats become spoiled from too much love in real life, it's the exact opposite at the movies. They are damn near unwatchable, even in their most passive portrayals. And very few of the Veruca Salts and Junior Healys of the world waste time with passivity. But Ilo Ilo bears witness to the emotional emergence of a spoiled brat, Jiale (Koh Jia Ler), who has only ever cared about two things in his life to this point: his grandfather and his Tamagochi. After exasperating his mother almost to the breaking point, his family hires a Filipino nanny, Theresa (Angeli Bayani), to shoulder the load of selfishness and troublemaking that is weighing down the already stressed-out family.

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