New from Al and Linda Lerner on Movies and Shakers: International Falls

Even though this film has its funny moments, it sadly pulls back the curtain on an unhappy stand up comedian and a wannabe. Director Amber McGinnis, in her first feature, with Writer Thomas Ward creates some good character development, but the film has its flaws and is more a sarcastic look at comedy, with tragic overtones. 

Tim, Rob Huebel, (I Love You Man, The Descendants, The Goldbergs) is the comedian touring in small-town hotel bars, landing in freezing cold International Falls, Minnesota. Dee, Rachael Harris (Lucifer, Suits The Hangover) is a painfully, pale, plain-looking working Mom and mother. She is the hotel front desk clerk who dreams of being a comedian. Their awkward conversation upon his checking in for Tim’s big appearance helps them forge a connection about the business of comedy.

As she gives him a tour of the town, the conversation becomes more and more personal. He is a burned out performer who’s  given up, and just stays on the road for a paycheck. He’s past caring whether or not the audience likes his raunchy material. But Dee is fascinated and goes to see his mediocre show which only stokes her desire to get up on stage. 

Given their personal marital situations, it’s predictable that both of them yearn for something more than just a walk-in the park, which is another obvious part in this plot. In process, Dee learns about comedy from Tim as he tells her that jokes are built on truth. He shows her his notebook and tells her to write down everything she sees, because it will become grist for her act. 

The weakest aspect of this storyline is its predictability. You’ll pick up on the two major plot points well before they occur in the film. But McGinnis creates cute scenes showing the corny charm of International Falls, its Smoky the Bear Statue, and that “magnificent” view across the river into Canada showing a huge, ugly factory. Plus you’ll love the funny, friendly lady, Hazel (Mindy Sterling)  at the convenience store. Kevin Nealon turns up as the clueless town cop. He’s another genial character in this film who is under utilized. Huebel and Harris work well together and as their characters became closer, their dialogue flowed more naturally. But without giving it away,  the final comedy club scene is unrealistic. Dee’s first standup performance is far too perfect, too polished, too soon. International Falls may be charming, but this raw, raunchy, disturbing look at the standup world gets some laughs, but won’t pack the house. 

Outskirt Media 93 minutes    Not rated

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