Toronto-based filmmaker Pavan Moondi returns to the big screen with Sundowners, a dark comedic buddy road trip movie about go-nowhere wedding photographer Alex, who receives a too-good-to-be-true offer from his obtrusive untrustworthy boss to film a destination wedding in Mexico. Alex jumps on the opportunity, corralling his buddy Justin to masquerade as a photographer for this chance getaway. Between mis-communicated flight times, wrong hotels, moral crises, and that one wedding guest/amateur-videographer who gets into your every shot, it’s clearly the vacation of a lifetime.
Indie music fans will delight in Sundowners as a number of the cast is a who’s who of Canadian musicians. Comedy Central’s Phil Hanley is at the helm as Alex, and funny man Tim Heidecker relishes in his role as Alex’s scummy boss Tom. Heidecker clearly delivers the standout performance, but Hanley and Luke Lalonde hold their own, utilizing a more naturalistic approach as the down-on-their-luck buddies set out to turn their lives around – or at least meet some girls.
Moondi’s mumblecore aesthetics are solidly upheld in Sundowners, as he creates the world entirely for his viewers, serving triple duty as the film’s writer, director, and editor. The dialogue is unarguably natural and brimming with dark humour; there are contemplative moments, bromance, and rapport that sometimes hits a little too bleakly close to home. However the problem with being too natural and improvisational is that pacing quickly becomes uneven, thus affecting the viewing experience.
As the story begins, we are presented with presumably relateable characters in Alex and Justin, however as the film progresses, a growing number of erratic actions on their part begin to deviate from the characteristics we now expect from them. Their growing unpredictability and silly actions serve to generate laughs, but overall it diminishes any previous character development as it becomes hard to empathize with them.
Moondi’s characters see minimal progression through the film, but from a naturalistic standpoint that does make sense. The film shows an event in time, stuff happens, but as in real life, events are often more a nudge than an awakening or cathartic event for those involved. His storytelling recognizes this and he doesn’t try to overshoot the boundaries that is typified by the genre. The result is an imperfect, moderately entertaining, and thought-provoking portrayal of the supposed every day.
Is Sundowners essential viewing?
Sundowners has running gags, and moments of absurd logic that will elicit chuckles. It does ultimately capture audiences’ attention enough to keep them invested in Alex and Justin’s predicaments to see them through their trip, therefore worth a watch.
Sundowners opens Friday August 25, 2017 at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Check their website for more information.