I Like Movies: Teen film bro restores our faith in the teen comedy

Warmth and goofiness of Isaiah Lehtinen’s performance harks back to Napoleon Dynamite, High Fidelity or Clerks

I Like Movies
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Director: Chandler Levack
Cert: None
Genre: Comedy
Starring: Isaiah Lehtinen, Romina D’Ugo, Krista Bridges, Percy Hynes White
Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins

The newcomer Isaiah Lehtinen plays Lawrence Kweller, a hilariously obnoxious teen movie lover who lives in an anonymous Canadian suburb with his widowed single mother (Krista Bridges) and his long-suffering best friend, Matt (Percy Hynes White). In Chandler Levack’s endearing Portrait of a Film Bro as a Young Man, Lawrence’s many movie-related preoccupations – making movies, watching movies, talking exclusively about movies – inform all life choices.

He insists that NYU, where he hopes to be tutored by Todd Solondz – the film is set at the turn of the millennium – is the only film school worth attending, even though it is obvious that his mother cannot afford the tuition. Undaunted, Lawrence takes a job in a big-box video emporium, where he forms a complicated relationship with his manager Alana (Romina D’Ugo) before realising that this minimum-wage gig will not bring him close to covering the costs of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Worse, he turns on Matt when the latter finds romance with a classmate.

Levack based the screenplay on her own experiences as a Blockbuster clerk, but her empathy for a central character that might easily have been dismissed as a proto-incel is her own, delightful innovation. Lawrence’s worst behaviours are rooted in naivety. He wavers between extravagant self-pity (“It’s so depressing to think I have to spend the rest of my life being me”), appalling lapses of judgment and grandiose pronouncements. (He expects Paul Thomas Anderson’s PunchDrunk Love to be the greatest film ever made. Spoiler alert: when he finally sees the movie, he deems it the greatest film ever made.)

There remains a warmth and goofiness in Lehtinen’s performance that harks back to Napoleon Dynamite as much as it recalls such similarly themed bro pics as High Fidelity and Clerks. It’s enough to restore one’s faith in the near-extinct subgenre once known as the teen comedy.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic