About 150 people gathered last night to watch nothing much happen during the Tacoma Film Festival’s opening film, “Cold Weather.” After a low-key gala with snacks and chamber music, festival-goers filed down the Annie Wright driveway to the plush Kemper Theater for the Portland-made detective mystery. The real mystery, however, was why it took filmmaker Aaron Katz nearly an hour to get the plot going.
After a protracted opening of disjointed scenes, mundane dialogue and bothersome, blurry camerawork, the characters finally solidified. Doug (Cris Lankenau) is a slow, gentle, naïve wanna-be detective; he lives rather pathetically with his bland sister Gail (Trieste Kelly Dunn) and chums up with the macho Carlos (Raul Castillo) when he starts to work with him in an ice factory. Doug’s ex-girlfriend Rachel (Robyn Rikoon) turns up out of the blue, and nothing much happens for 50 minutes except badly-timed scenes and dull acting. After endless minutes watching these white-bread Portlanders drinking coffee, watching whales, shoveling ice, chopping carrots and throwing grapes off a bridge you begin to wonder if this is, in fact, experimental film rather than feature. At least there’s one visually stunning scene – the bridge near Multnomah Falls.
Then, finally, something happens – Rachel goes missing. Doug and Carlos, goofily inspired by Sherlock Holmes, swing into bumbling action through a mystery involving money-laundering, porn sites and a shady photographer called Jim. Katz picks up and drops his characters like a socialite at an embarrassing party, but by the time Doug figures it all out you’ve begun to root for his inept Watson-esque cogitations, and there are some redeemingly funny moments: Carlos explains that he “can load ice and think at the same time” and Doug, astounded, replies: “Yeah, that’s like my sister – she can multitask.”
But “Cold Weather,” especially for a festival opener, is incredibly slow and anticlimactic – about as entertaining as watching a rainy Portland day. The rest of the festival can only get better.
What’s on today: 2 p.m. Drama Shorts (see the next blog post); 4:15 “Poi Dogs”/”Do it Again”; 6:30 p.m. “Bass Ackwards”/“Secrets of the Tribe”; 7 p.m. “Calvin Marshall”; 8:45 p.m. “One Too Many Mornings”/“Coffka”/“How to Make a Baby”
The Tacoma Film Festival runs Oct. 7-14 at various downtown venues. Tickets: $8.50/$6.50 matinee. 253-572-6062, www.tacomafilmfestival.com