We reviewed just about every feature playing at this year's Indy Film Fest, which runs July 19-29, picking out our favorite from each slate to review at length and devoting about a hundred words to every other film. Head to indyfilmfest.org for complete schedule info, including shorts packages, workshops and other miscellany.
Billi & Theodore (dir. Ronald Short, 114 min)
★ ★ ★ Engaging road trip movie. After Theodore (Travis Emery) gets punched out by his girlfriend, he travels to see his best pal, a puppeteer named Billi (Jordan McRae). After a stop in Indianapolis, the two head north to get his stuff from his place in Michigan City. It's fun seeing local shots of Indy and northern Indiana, but the movie has more going for it than that. The friendship between Billi and Theodore is believable and thankfully, we get to see the annoying aspects of both characters (Billi is abrasive and overly theatrical, Theodore is a whiner) along with their quirky, funny sides.
Late Summer (dir. Ernie Park, 58 min)
★ ★ ★ Writer-director Ernie Park takes a look at young Nadia (Michelle Lynn Hardin), who is torn between staying with her mother and going away to college. Park does a wonderful job creating an inviting atmosphere and introducing interesting, likable characters. Well-chosen music enhances the film, though an early jazz number overwhelms the conversation. The movie spends way too much time showing friends and family trying to talk Nadia into going to college. It's a shame Park didn't expand his screenplay more, but despite the repetition, Late Summer still works as a rich mood piece.
Video Stop (dir. Adam Newell, 107 min)
★ ★ ★ Raunchy comedy with a sweet soul. Writer-director Adam Newell offers a comic coming-of-age story set in Indianapolis, focusing on the staff of Video Stop, a local DVD rental shop with fewer videos on display than a suburban branch of the library. There's a major Clerks vibe at first, but these Hoosier fellows are much nicer. Newell directs ably. As for the screenplay, bathroom and body function jokes abound, with wacky hijinks pushing the limits of credulity, even for the genre. But I didn't mind, because I liked the characters enough to want to spend time with them even when a particular gag didn't work for me.