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NBFF 2014 Review: ‘Finding Neighbors’

finding neighborsWith Tuesday being a busy day for me, I only had time to catch one film at the Newport Beach Film Fest. I chose Finding Neighbors, a small drama about a man dealing with a lack of connection in his life. It is the kind of film that is loosely plotted, decently acted, but ultimately only most effective for those who really find their own connection with the characters. Call it a lack of perspective regarding how I can personally connect to these characters, but I cannot say I haven’t appreciated other films, with similar stories that also felt more entertaining.

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Michael O’Keefe stars as Sam Tucker, a graphic novelist who is currently suffering from writer’s block. He lives at home, while his wife, Mary (Catherine Dent), works. While dealing with his lack of inspiration, Sam soon begins to interact more with his neighbors, including Jeff (Blake Bashoff), an admirer of his past work, and Sherrie (Julie Mond), the attractive girl-next-door. With Mary’s concerns about her husband growing, Sam tries to pass things off as alright, but various misunderstandings have a way of inspiring confrontation in a way that Sam only wishes he could turn into stories for his work at this point.

From how I took it, Finding Neighbors is trying to have it both ways. On one side, the film features stock, quirky characters including the hot girl neighbor and the effeminate gay neighbor, to go along with the lead character that is kind of funny, but also going through a mid-life crisis. On the other side, you have a film that seems to have dialogue rooted in reality. Sometimes people do stay frustratingly silent with their loved ones in regards to certain types of conversations and seeing that be portrayed in a film has a real level of truth to it. With that said, Finding Neighbors feels really limited by this notion and the tone comes off as erratic because of it.

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While the film has moments of levity, it is a clear-cut drama. The characters we see are dealing with real issues, but when the problems can very easily be solved with one character simply stringing together one sentence that can at least apply context to a situation, but refuses to do even that, it becomes frustrating to watch. Along with that, the film has very little momentum, hoping that the aid of scene transitions via stylistic artistry appearing on the screen is good enough to keep things interesting. Writer/director Ron Judkins has a developed a story that comes from a real enough place, with the bare minimum added to make the film more cinematically appealing (job of lead character, categorization of the neighbors), but it feels like just that – the bare minimum, and it does not help that there ultimately is not much more to this film, aside from a confrontation where people finally speak to each other.

It is not that I am picking on the idea of what needs to occur, it is simply the execution that feels so flat to me. Take another film like the underseen Everything Must Go, starring Will Ferrell in a rare dramatic role. That is a film that takes its small scale drama and makes it work because of the writing, which is much stronger, the setup, which feels less stagey, and the acting, which seems more comfortable. Finding Neighbors does not handle these aspects in the same manner and it comes off as amateurish as a result.

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Finding Neighbors does not have a lot going for it that I would say makes it a worthwhile experience. I am willing to accept that my age may dictate that I just do not have the experience to really accept what is being put on display, but at the same time, there were several other very similar films that I appreciated much more than this one. It came down to finding things to praise in this film and while the acting was decent enough, I found the performances to be limited by the writing. There were some effective dramatic beats to go along with some of the mild humor the film tried to have, but I just did not find myself connecting in the way the film wanted me to. I would have been happy with Finding Neighbors if I found the neighbors to be more interesting.

finding neighbors poster

Click on the poster to visit the Newport Beach Film Festival website,
and be sure to check back to Why So Blu throughout the week
for more of my coverage of the festival!

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Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com. Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS4.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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