Azn Badger's Blog

What About the Lysine Contingency…?

Movie Review: Coup De Cinema

Official Website: http://coupdecinemamovie.com/

IMDb Page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1776137/

Trailer: http://vimeo.com/22768170

Before we get started with this review, I’d just like to take a moment to thank the co-director/co-writer/editor/storyboard artist of this film, and good friend of mine, Sean Parker; for allowing me the opportunity to write this review.

From the day I met him back in college, I always thought of him as perhaps the only young filmmaker I’d ever met that really seemed like he was going to “make it.”

If a single film must be cited to indicate a young filmmaker’s arrival into the realm of having “made it” in the indie scene, I can think of few films that better represent this transition than Coup De Cinema.

Beginning life as a college film project between co-directors and long time partners in crime, Sean Parker and Austin Hillebrecht, only to be completed several years after the matter; Coup De Cinema is a handsomely shot (on a Canon Mk. II if I recall correctly) comedy-heist film that benefits from also being a movie about making movies.

In the fine tradition of films such as Ed Wood and Bowfinger, the creators of Coup wears their love for film on their sleeves; presenting a story told amidst and adjacent to a film-within-a-film.

Shot in Portland, Oregon and Olympia, Washington; the basic plot of Coup De Cinema surrounds a struggling young wannabe filmmaker named Miles Smith, played by co-director and pretty much everything in between, Austin Hillebrecht.

Pictured: Austin Hillebrecht as Miles Smith, our protagonist.

Hard up for work in his chosen field, and frustrated in his “not quite” relationship with his lady friend Caitlyn; (Nomi Summa) Miles’ dilemma effectively reflects the plight of the modern recent college graduate.

Eventually, Miles has a chance encounter with a DVD sleeve cover that sets him on a path towards seeking employment at a local film studio, Bourgeois Pictures.

Finding their hiring process to be as exclusive as their namesake, Miles ducks through an open door and follows it to a screening room where he meets Bourgeois producer, Rick Steiner (David Loftus).

Pictured: Rick Steiner... Who bears no relation to the pro-wrestler of the same name.

Won over (well, slightly anyway…) by Miles’ pluck and ambition, Rick grants Miles a job as a production assistant on Bourgeois’ current production, “Marauders of the Door of Doom,” provided the director of the picture, Adrian Dreyfus (Corey Brunish); signs off on him.

Ecstatic with his success, Miles ducks into the Bourgeois restroom before his first day of work and muses, out loud mind you; about the wonderful possibilities that working at Bourgeois might offer him in the near future.

Unfortunately, as tends to be the case when we say stupid things out loud to ourselves, Miles discovers he is not alone.

Well, it tends to happen when I do it anyway…

Standing in the corner atop a tiny box, hijacking someone else’s wi-fi for use on his smart phone; the jaded (and more than a little shady) Bourgeois camera operator, Buster (Dennis Fitzpatrick) quietly eavesdrops on Miles’ conversation with himself, making the poor kid feel more than a little dumb in the process.

Pictured: Buster, doing like me in my college days and stealing wi-fi.

Despite the awkwardness of this initial meeting, the relationship between these 2 characters warms over time, and goes on to serve as the backbone of Coup De Cinema.

Following this, Miles has his first encounter with the film’s primary antagonist, the studio’s director Adrian.

Pictured: The wild-eyed control freak in all of his glory. No, I'm not talking about George Lucas.

Upon first meeting him, Miles is taken aback by Adrian’s manic intensity, but after a bizarre (and entirely one-sided) exchange; Miles gets the job.

Initially thrilled with his good fortune, Miles unfortunately makes the mistake of viewing some of Bourgeois Pictures previous films on his own time.

Shocked and despondent over the sheer craptacular-ness of Bourgeois’ track-record, Miles quickly becomes disillusioned with the studio and his future with it.

This of course leads to Miles arriving at the conclusion that, based on what he’s seen of the studio’s past efforts, as well as Adrian’s less than stellar conduct as a director; he could do better.

Thus sets in motion the “Coup” aspect of the film’s title, wherein Miles and Buster, with the aid of the crew and actors of “Marauders of the Door of Doom” AKA MOTDOD; attempt to rewrite, re-shoot, and re-edit the movie to a higher standard of quality under Miles’ direction.

The real difficulty (and indeed much of the fun) of this undertaking comes from the fact that in order for Miles’ coup to work, he and the crew must continue to perform their duties on Adrian’s production of MOTDOD, while keeping him and Rick unaware of their extracurricular filmmaking activities.

What results is an irresistibly cute film that dips into a lot of moods and textures, but never fails to provide fun on some level.

From the careful attention to detail in lighting, angles, and depth of field, to the delightfully whimsical soundtrack, to the way a select few characters in the story are drawn and acted in broader strokes than others, Coup De Cinema is a film that oozes a cartoony and hyper-real charm.

The film has a wonderful energy and “casually fast” pace that feels organic, never labors or drags, yet isn’t afraid to kick it into high gear whenever the story dictates it.

Pictured: One of the more exciting scenes in the movie.

Aside from the central plot device of the actual coup, which is refreshingly clever both in premise and execution; I think the real selling point for the film is the characters.

The film has a rather large cast, which of course results in some characters receiving more screen time than others; but to it’s credit, I found myself able to distinguish and keep track of the players with little difficulty.

In that sense, you could say the film was well cast, not only due to the quality of performances; but by the simple fact that every actor was visually distinctive regardless.

On that note, Austin Hillebrecht’s turn as the leading man was quite enjoyable, with his bright-eyed enthusiasm and not-quite-confident, half-cocked smile going a long way towards making him a character worth following for an hour and a half.

On a side note, I’m not sure if it was intended, but Miles’ “emo” wardrobe during the mid-way romantic crisis of the film had me snickering.

Pictured: What I like to call, "Emo Miles."

Speaking of romance, the one role in the film that stood out to me as being a little off, was that of Caitlyn, Miles’ “sort-of” romantic interest; not so much in terms of performance, but in writing.

In my opinion, it was wise to keep the Caitlyn character and the drama she brought to the table securely on the periphery; but in the end what we’re left with amounts to that of a cold fish romance.

Don’t get me wrong, the role was well-acted as it was written; but at the end of the day I couldn’t help but feel that the awkwardness in her and Miles’ relationship was pushed just an inch too far.

Another role that felt a little off to me, was that of Ren Fields (Tony Zilka), the studio editor and minor antagonist of the film.

Pictured: Ren Fields from Coup De Cinema. Technically Coup De Cinema did it before Toy Story 3 though...

From what I could tell, the character is meant to be a riff on the artsy-fartsy types of the experimental school of filmmaking.

He’s supposed to be socially awkward, and of the belief that he is a misunderstood artist rather than a film school reject.

I’m only assuming that last part, but I defy you to tell me he doesn’t seem like the type.

While the character is written this way, in all honesty I felt the performance was a little too restrained.

The verbal quirks were in place, and some of the body language was there, but unlike the romantic subplot; I felt the Ren Fields character would’ve benefited from being a little extravagant and outrageous.

Speaking of outrageous, Corey Brunish as Adrian seemed like he had a lot of fun chewing every last square inch of scenery in the movie.

If there was one role in the movie that really had no upper limit as to how over-the-top it could it be performed without damaging the integrity of the film; it’d have to be Adrian.

Coming across as some sort of demented, coked-out Dennis Hopper/James Cameron/George Lucas hybrid, I was impressed by the Adrian character both in writing and performance.

Behold! The Chimera of CGI and psychedelic drugs!

I realize I may have just described the single most terrifying and infuriating human being in all of existence; but trust me, it all comes together quite nicely.

While his story arc might get a little out of hand and far-fetched during the film’s climax, given the character’s personality up to that point; I didn’t find his actions to be the least bit jarring.

By the way, watching him casually suggest things like “We’ll fix it in post,” was a thing of beauty.

Before I continue my gushing any further, I feel I must address my last gripe about The Coup, and I do mean last; that has to do with the character of Wilhelm, played by Rhyan Schwartz.

No doubt named for the infamous Wilhelm Scream, the boom-operator character of Wilhelm had me scratching my head much of the time.

My guess is, the decision was made to give him a quirk, some sort of quickly identifiable trait; in this case a French accent, so as to make him more memorable as a character.

Given that the role was actually very small, this had the result of making the guy standout just a little too much, leading to me thinking of him as “that one French guy” as opposed to an actual personality.

Barrie Wild’s character of Tim, an Irishman; also had a noteworthy accent, but also had the benefit of more screen-time and lines in the script, resulting in him seeming quite a bit more fleshed out than Wilhelm.

Oh well, on the plus side Wilhelm’s reaction to a throwaway joke regarding the WWII invasion of his homeland is quite precious:

The face of a man who's just seen Santa's ding dong.

Moving on, while virtually every role in the film was performed ably, there are a few I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge, that of Dennis Fitzpatrick’s Buster, and David Loftus’ Rick Steiner.

Both of these characters had significant arcs in the film, and as such; felt pivotal to the film’s success.

The character of Buster was essentially the rock of the coup, (again, not the wrestler) unwavering in the face of adversity, and quick to rise to the occasion whenever necessary.

Watching him go from a jaded old-timer to an enthusiastic pillar of the group was a pleasant journey, arguably even more so than our sometimes troubled protagonist, Miles’.

While some could say Buster’s arc had him getting a little too warm and fuzzy by the end, personally; I found it refreshing.

Steiner’s character is one that I’d prefer not to spoil, but I will say this; the man is a joy to watch on a technical level.

I’m not sure if it was good editing or what, but some of Loftus’ minor inflections and stumbles in his speech really went a long way towards legitimizing the character in my eyes.

At the end of the day, I’d happily recommend Coup De Cinema to anyone with an appreciation for film.

As mentioned earlier, the film is handsomely shot, stupendously scored, and equally well written and acted.

I’ve always found myself in awe of the art of filmmaking, and as such, films that take it upon themselves to pay homage to the process; and actually show the audience what goes into it, will always have a special place in my heart.

Maybe it’s because I’m a friend of one of the directors, or because I’m actually in the film; (in the BEST 5 seconds of the film *wink wink*) but I really liked Coup De Cinema.

Pictured: THE BEST PART OF THE MOVIE.

Again, my opinion has nothing to do with the awesomely spectacular image above.

*ANYWAY* from what I’ve been told, the movie has done well in the local film festival circuits, and is in fact set to appear at the Action on Film Festival, where it was nominated for the best title sequence; sometime this week.

My greatest hope is that the film is received there half as well as it was when it was screened among my family and friends.

That being said, I’d like to take another opportunity to thank Sean Parker and Austin Hillebrecht for giving me the opportunity to view and review Coup De Cinema.

Thank you to all the actor’s and crew members involved in the process, I assure you, you did a wonderful job even if I didn’t mention you by name!

Be sure to look quick at 1:08:53 for a cameo of co-director Sean Parker!

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