The Independent Critic

 2012 Heartland Film Festival: A-Z Reviews, Vol. 11 
Free Samples (90 Mins., Narrative Feature)
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Jess Weixler, Jason Ritter, Tippi Hedren; Directed by: Jay Gammill; Written by: Jim Beggarly; OFFICIAL FACEBOOK

Take this recommendation with a grain of salt. I know quite a few people, including both film critics and general moviegoers, who haven't cared one iota for Jay Gammill's Free Samples. The film is a fairly predictable comedy drama about, you guessed it, college-age adults who are almost fervently unsure of which direction to take their lives.

Fortunately for director Jay Gammill, he has a quality cast that includes a terrific Jess Weixler, Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Ritter and, maybe most surprisingly of all, Tippi Hedren. If you require incredibly cohesive story lines and in-depth character studies, then this probably isn't the film for you. However, if you're content to observe a woman (Weixler) trapped within the confines of an ice cream truck encountering all sorts of Angelenos including her most recent one-night stand (Eisenberg) then you may be able to cruise your psyche' into this vibe.

If you loved Charlize Theron in Young Adult, then there's a pretty good chance you'll climax watching Weixler have a field day as Jillian. Weixler was terrific in the indie gem Teeth, and this shows off even more of what she can do. Who cares if Hollywood comes calling? We need to keep this actress in the far more ballsy indie world.

Friend Request Pending (12 Mins., Narrative Short)
Starring: Judi Dench, Tom Hiddleston, Penny Ryder, Philip Jackson; Directed by: Chris Foggin; Written by: Chris Croucher; OFFICIAL WEBSITE

Is it unfair to punish a film because it has a terrific cast but somehow manages to only be mediocre?

If so, then so be it.

It's hard not to admire A and B-list actors and actresses when they remember their roots and show up in short films, student films and other experimental and obviously low-budget projects. Judi Dench's toilet paper budget is probably higher on most of her films than the entire budget for Friend Request Pending, a 12-minute narrative short that weaves together the senior dating scene with a decidedly modern world.

In other words, we get old geezers playing all cutesie around that their new-fangled interweb thingy.

Okay. Okay. I'm exaggerating. It is, however, pretty difficult to accept the premise of Dench as a newcomer to technology given some of the roles she's tackled as of late. However, even more difficult is that this story line has been making its way around the world of short films for the last year or so now and this film, despite its star power, is likely the weakest entry.

Once in a while, you watch a film and think to yourself "If that film didn't have a celebrity, nobody would ever see it."

This would be that film.

From Nothing, Something (81 Mins., Doc Feature)
Directed by: Tim Cawley; OFFICIAL WEBSITE

Director Tim Cawley examines the creative process in this intelligent and entertaining feature doc that is screening during the 2012 Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis. From academic geniuses to researchers to artists and more, Cawley does a rather amazing job of weaving this 81-minute film through the similarities and differences in both thought and process. Very few filmmakers succeed in approaching the filmmaking journey through the lenses of both intellect and inspiration, but Cawley proves to be the exception. As I sat listening to the wisdom of such folks as Sara Quin ("Tegan & Sara") and writer Tom Perrotta (Election) along with several others, I found myself completely and utterly captivated.

It helps, of course, that Cawley has paid as much attention to the tech aspects of the film including an excellent original soundtrack, solid graphics and great editing by Kat Baker. It's hard to imagine this film having much of a life outside the festival circuit, but anyone who is well in touch with their creative side will find this film worth a view.

Future Weather (100 Mins., Narrative Feature)
Starring: Perla Haney-Jardine, Amy Madigan; Written and Directed by: Jenny Deller

One of the 2012 Heartland Film Festival's award-winning films, Future Weather is a dynamite debut from writer/director Jenny Deller. The film centers around a 13-year-old girl named Laduree (Perla Haney-Jardine), one of those youths where you look at them and go "Gee whiz. You sure are mature for your age." In this case, however, we're not talking about any twisted sexual innuendo, but in the fact that this is a young lady with quite a bit of global and environmental awareness who ain't afraid to use it. When her mother (Marin Ireland) runs away from home, suddenly Laduree's global concerns become incredibly intimate ones. When she's taken in by her grandmother (Amy Madigan), the battle becomes over whether (or should I say "weather") or not she can take care of her own life while learning maintaining her compassion for the world at large.

Future Weather is an intelligent and thoughtful film featuring a performance by Jardine that manages to portray both the believability of her maturity and the truth of her existence in the confines of a 13-year-old. The film also has such familiar folks as William Sadler and Lili Taylor in supporting roles, but Future Weather is really a showcase for the talents of young Perla Haney-Jardine and the Hollywood vet Amy Madigan.

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