A not so distant cousin to the marvelous Lars and the Real Girl, first-time feature film director Kyle Patrick Alvarez's Independent Spirit Award nominated Easier With Practice follows Davy Mitchell (Brian Geraghty, The Hurt Locker), an unpublished writer off on a self-planned nationwide book tour with his unpublished manuscript and his brother, Sean (Kel O'Neill). After four months on the road reading his writings in coffeehouses, bars, bookstores and anywhere else that will open the door, the relationship between Davy and Sean is even more strained than usual when Davy receives a call from a stranger with a seductive voice, Nicole (Kathryn Aselton). What begins as anonymous, and surprisingly arousing, phone sex turns into something more for Davy as he and Nicole begin to talk night after night, week after week as Davy's tour around the country continues.
In the same way that director Craig Gillespie and actor Ryan Gosling turned Lars and the Real Girl into an intimate, emotionally resonant drama about the healing power of love, director Kyle Patrick Alvarez and lead actor Brian Geraghty turn Easier With Practice into one of the year's best films by transcending the quirkiness of the subject matter and turning Geraghty's Davy into a beautifully human, intimately drawn young man who seems to be carving out a way to define love for himself after years of isolated loneliness and outsider status.
Giving one of the year's most vulnerable and brave performances, Brian Geraghty is a true revelation as Davy, a young man who is smitten and awestruck by Nicole's attention even as she defines virtually every aspect of the relationship.
A less assured filmmaker would have filled Easier With Practice with unnecessary plot devices and visual distractions. Alvarez, on the other hand, seems to trust his actors implicitly and along with cinematographer David Morrison Easier With Practice lingers on Davy and those around him in such a way that we are drawn even deeper inside their unfolding experiences. Alvarez has been nominated for the "Someone to Watch" Award and the film itself is nominated for Best First Feature in the 2010 Independent Spirit Awards. Easier With Practice is based upon a GQ magazine article, "What Are You Wearing?," by Davy Rothbart.
Originally and unjustifiably rated NC-17 by the ridiculously inconsistent MPAA, Easier With Practice does contain an abundance of graphic sexual language. It does feature phone sex as a central theme, after all. While the film's rating is absurd, it wouldn't be surprising if the film is trimmed just a touch before its limited arthouse release beginning February 26, 2010 in New York and Los Angeles.
In addition to Geraghty's outstanding performance, Kel O'Neill shines as his increasingly estranged brother who seems a polar opposite of Davy. Marguerite Moreau and Eugene Byrd also do fine work in supporting roles, while Kathryn Aselton's work as Nicole makes the most of her largely phone-based character in making all of us understand Davy's growing connection to her.
It would be unfair to reveal how the film itself ultimately resolves itself, but suffice it to say that Alvarez remains faithful to the film's artistic vision while providing an ending that is emotionally and intellectually satisfying and leads to the film's lingering long after the closing credits have rolled.
DP David Morrison utilizes RED One digital lensing and nicely captures the film's Albuquerque locale. Easier With Practice features a literal potpourri of indie music, though one could argue the music is just a tad distracting at times from scenes that really just need to linger a bit longer.
Having spent well over a year on the festival circuit, Easier With Practice will hopefully expand upon its New York and Los Angeles opening later this month on the strength of its two Independent Spirit Award nominations. Despite its seemingly "taboo" subject matter, Easier With Practice will undoubtedly resonate with those who embrace intelligent, well-acted human dramas with unflinching honesty. Between his highly acclaimed supporting role in The Hurt Locker and his leading role here in Easier With Practice, 2010 may very well be the year that Hollywood becomes more familiar with Brian Geraghty.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic