Friday, May 11, 2012

“Small, Beautifully Moving Parts” – Movie Review




This week in my movie class, we saw the new comedy-drama, “Small, Beautifully Moving Parts”, an independent film that has a cast of mostly unknowns.


When a woman learns she’s pregnant, she sets out on a trip to find her mother – but after years of no contact, can they somehow manage to repair their distant relationship?


Sarah ( Anna Margaret Hollyman ) is a New York City-based technologist who geeks out on just about every modern gadget currently available. Learning that she’s pregnant, she temporarily leaves her boyfriend behind for a trek to California to visit her scattered family – but primarily, to hunt down her estranged mother who has gone “off the grid” (no phone, no e-mail, etc.). Upon landing in Los Angeles, she is thrown a baby shower by her sister and immediately starts to have second thoughts about motherhood after seeing the children brought to the party by her sister’s friends. Worse, her second thoughts are filled with concerns about her parenting ability since she had such a poor relationship with her own mother.

Shortly thereafter, she leaves to visit her father, who immediately needs her assistance with an extremely urgent technical matter. While troubleshooting the problem, Sarah finds that her father has learned Portuguese because he met a Brazilian woman online, with whom he now communicates via video conferencing. Sarah discusses the reason for her visit and tries to get an understanding of her mother’s behavior throughout the years; her father explains to Sarah that her mother was always the type who constantly sought out something better – perhaps an upgrade of her lifestyle because she was never fully satisfied with whatever it was she had at the time.

After getting accidentally detoured to Las Vegas when her rented car’s GPS has a bit of a meltdown, Sarah gets a call from her father, who says he Fed Ex’d a postcard to her mother to inform her of Sarah’s impending visit. Sarah is disheartened to hear that not only did her mother send a response by fax, but that she also didn’t want Sarah to come. Not one to take no for an answer, Sarah heads off to the desert in order to locate the dome-shaped commune where her mother supposedly lives. Finding her mother spending her days meditating, Sarah has to do a bit of arm-twisting to convince her to consent to the visit. Eventually relenting, Sarah’s mother finally gives her daughter the opportunity she’s been waiting for – but will Sarah ultimately be able to bring closure to the situation or will this potentially turn out to be the biggest mistake of her life?


For a short movie – and this one ran less than an hour and a half – “Small, Beautifully Moving Parts” felt much longer, perhaps in part due to what seemed like something of a sluggish pace. Although we know from the outset that Sarah is on a mission to Mom, “Moving Parts” doesn’t have a very strong narrative thread that carries momentum to push the story forward; instead, it occasionally feels as though it meanders about a bit, lingering too long on things that are irrelevant and are fairly inconsequential to the resolution of the story. Perhaps this might in part be due to the fact that the movie has not one, but two directors, who also both co-wrote the screenplay.

Essentially, this is one of those “road trip” movies – in that way, our instructor somewhat likened it to the “Road” pictures that Bob Hope and Bing Crosby used to do decades ago. Although it’s certainly a road movie in the sense that its protagonist spends much of the time driving around the southwestern portion of the United States in a rented car, it is certainly more accurately themed as a technology movie – the central character is not only a technology person, but also relies on high-tech devices exclusively – almost to a flaw.

The screening featured interviews with the co-writers/co-directors Annie Howell and Lisa Robinson as well as an interview with the film’s star, Anna Margaret Hollyman, who played the role of Sarah. Hollyman said that one of the most difficult parts of making the movie was wearing the attachment that made her appear as though she was pregnant; for one thing, she found it very uncomfortable to wear during the scenes where they had to shoot in the desert because the weather was so hot. Additionally, Hollyman said that after wearing it almost every day during the shoot, she found it weird no longer wear it once filming was done – she almost felt as though an appendage was lost. Annie Howell said that they shot this film on a schedule of only 21 days and that some potential distributors were trying to get her to shorten the name of the movie to simply “Moving Parts” because their title was too long; eventually, she wound up getting her way and the film kept its original title. Lisa Robinson talked a little bit about some of the technical details of the filmmaking process; she mentioned that the film was shot on a small Canon SLR-type still-picture camera that also was capable of shooting video as well. Robinson said that she found it to be a good choice because it made for easy setups done inexpensively.


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