21 November, 2014

Savannah Film Festival Opens With Victor Levin's "5 to 7" (**½)

Crowds wait below the Trustees Theatre marquee on Broughton Street.

The 2013 Savannah Film Festival showcased a few strong films—"The Past," "The Invisible Woman," "Hank & Asha"—and honored some worthy guests—Alexander Payne, Jeremy Irons, Abigail Breslin. The overall quality of content, however, was down from in years past. The 2013 opening night film, "Nebraska," certainly had the right pedigree and was attended by both director Payne and star Bruce Dern. Previous opening night films have included "Silver Linings Playbook" and "The Artist," so you could have colored me surprised when I learned this year's opening night film was one that wasn't even on my radar—Victor Levin's "5 to 7."

With Oscar-hunting films like "The Imitation Game," "Whiplash" and "Foxcatcher" included in the lineup, I'm surprised that "5 to 7" was chosen as the film to kick it off. The movie premiered earlier this year at the Tribeca Film Festival and features Anton Yelchin and Bérénice Marlohe as lead players with Glenn Close, Frank Langella, Olivia Thirlby and Lambert Wilson in supporting roles.

Glenn Close, Frank Langella and Anton Yelchin star in "5 to 7"

We begin and end the film with Anton Yelchin's sympathetic, failed everyman, Brian. A writer in New York City (not exactly a character with whom we aren't already familiar), we watch as he meets the beautiful and enigmatic Arielle (Bérénice Marlohe). They begin spending time together, but Brian breaks it off upon Arielle's revelation that she is married, albeit with an 'understanding' with her husband. A few weeks pass, however, and Brian comes back and the '5 to 7' romance blossoms.

Honestly, there isn't much else to say. The film's only merits exist in the talents of its cast. Yelchin, as he does in everything, does yield a hefty audience attachment. Marlohe's smile and confidence is a calming presence and announces her as more than a limited edition Bond girl ("Skyfall"). I often enjoy watching Olivia Thirlby, but her role could have gone to anyone. The biggest accomplishment of "5 to 7" is no doubt the tag-team of Frank Langella and Glenn Close. Langella chews scenery like it is peanut brittle. This is the type of comedic turn from a typically non-comedic Hollywood icon that would warrant an easy Oscar nomination if the film were any better—or at least more widely seen. Close is also great, but settles in as more of a background fixture than Langella.

While not obviously originally intended for the theater like some productions ("August: Osage County," "Glengarry Glen Ross"), "5 to 7" plays out a bit stagey. Repeating settings and limiting spoken lines to main players are not bad things, by any means, but here, they only aid in this affectation—a certain superficiality. Unfortunately, a stage version of this would work decidedly less than the film—it would simply be too boring. At least in the film, New York City looks as delightful as it should.

"5 to 7" goes to great lengths to charm its audience, and in many places, it succeeds. Victor Levin has a few films under his belt as a writer, but this marks his first time also directing. If he can cut the schmaltz and impart a sense of reality to his stories, I'm confident he will make some good movies.

2.5 out of 5 stars.

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