I was given a copy of Finding Neighbors, which comes out on DVD next week, to talk about because its protagonist is a middle-aged blocked graphic novelist. Sam (Michael O’Keefe, Caddyshack, Homeland) had early success, with his award-winning work turned into a movie, but now finds it difficult to write anything. His wife (Catherine Dent, The Shield) is sympathetic but has her own job and activities.
Sam finds himself distracted by a new young neighbor (Julie Mond) who for some reason showers outdoors. He also interacts with a gay couple who lives nearby, the younger one of whom worships his work. As he builds these new relationships, he and his wife may be growing apart.
Finding Neighbors was written and directed by Ron Judkins, an Oscar winner as a production sound mixer. Sam’s graphic novel illustrations were produced by Barry Bruner.
It’s a leisurely paced movie that proceeds precisely as you expect it to. Unfortunately, I found no surprises and no inspiring or memorable observations. It’s praised for being realistic, but it’s so authentic that it feels pointless as a movie; I could have gotten the same information through a conversation with a couple of friends my age, and I would have enjoyed it more. The intentions seem well-meaning, but good intentions don’t necessarily make for good art.
I have little sympathy for another indy film about how tough it is to be an aging white guy worried about his creativity, but I kept watching because of O’Keefe’s performance. You can find out more for yourself at the movie website.
(I mention this in case it’s a more widespread glitch: I received a defective disc (although a commercially packaged one) that stopped playing 2/3 of the way through, sending my player thrashing, so I missed a short part of the movie. I had to skip ahead to the next chapter to get the film to continue.)
The special features on the DVD are:
- Director’s commentary
- “Cast Interviews”, which is more of a brief (six-minute) making-of featurette. I did appreciate hearing O’Keefe compare his characters’ experiences with his own as an actor. I’d like to have seem more of that.
- “Director’s Breakdown of a Scene” (3 1/2 minutes) features Judkins telling us what his characters are thinking during an early conflict scene.
- “Animation Backstory” (5 minutes) can be viewed online — it’s about how they brought “Sam”‘s work to life to fill in between sequences, as animated by Una Lorenzen.
- “Women on the Set” is four minutes about the “army of women” that helped make the film. It can also be seen online. It would have been better with clearer identification of who these women are and what roles, specifically, they took, instead of just hearing a bunch of female voices talking about how great it was.
- The theatrical trailer
Here are a couple of art/shot comparisons, ending with one that may be more relevant than previously thought: