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BIFF 2018: Tater Tot & Patton and Virginia Minnesota

February 19, 2018

 

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Nestled along the southern border of Wisconsin, Beloit is a town more or less equidistant from Chicago and Milwaukee, but a world away in terms of pace of life. Therefore, you can expect films that mirror that pace of life to appear at the 13th Annual Beloit International Film Festival (BIFF), which runs for ten days, opening this Friday, February 23rd and closing out on Sunday, March 4th. We’re kicking off coverage of some of the films from this year’s festival with a pair of two-handers that couldn’t be more disparate in terms of worldview and execution.

 

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TATER TOT & PATTON (2017)

USA/91 min.

“You eat, you sleep, you piss, you drive the line.”

A bratty millennial named Andie (Jessica Rothe, “La La Land” & “Happy Death Day”) opts to live on a remote South Dakota ranch owned by her uncle Erwin (Bates Wilder, “Detroit” & “Joy”) rather than go to rehab in this drama. Despite such a seemingly pat setup, “Tater Tot & Patton” manages to move past surface level “kids these days” bromides and gets to the heart of the universality of pain. Anchored by two brilliant lead performances, the film is an intense look at the lengths humans will go to in order to dull the pain of life. While the film ends up moving toward a rather convenient and all too familiar ending, the honesty of its leads – particularly Wilder, who seems birthed out of a union of the rugged masculinity of Josh Brolin and Nick Nolte – redeems an otherwise rote conclusion. Writer/director Andrew Kightlinger is a talent to watch, and I look forward to whatever it is he does next.

RATING: ***1/2

Showtimes: March 2, 2018 – 5:00pm & March 4, 2018 – 5:00pm

 

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VIRGINIA MINNESOTA (2018)

USA/99 min.

“I was thinking I could sell my engagement ring, but then I thought, even I’m not that cold.”

Lacking a light touch in virtually every respect, writer/director Daniel Stine’s feature-length debut, “Virginia Minnesota”, is an absolute mess. After a muddled first act in which the audience struggles to follow anything that’s going on, things only go steadily downhill once the pieces begin to assemble. The film is a random mishmash of indie movie cliches (bad parents, tandem bicycles, talking robots) all tied together by characters so insufferable that to spend time with them is to be complicit in their selfishness and stupidity. The film tries unsuccessfully to marry mythology to a real world tale about two former juvenile delinquents, Addison (Aurora Perrineau, daughter of actor, Harold Perrineau, whose voice can be heard here) and Lyle (Rachel Hendrix), leaving the audience to scrape together whatever elements of the story work and discard the rest. I’m sad to say I was quite content to discard most of it, outside of some truly gorgeous cinematography from Pedro Ciampolini.

RATING: *1/2

Showtimes: March 3, 2018 – 7:30pm & March 4, 2018 – 5:00pm (with director in attendance)

 

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