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“Angels Crest,” reviewed


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A version of this review originally ran as part of our coverage of the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival.

For all the people crying onscreen in “Angels Crest,” I never once felt the urge to cry myself. The problem, I think, is not with what’s in the film but what’s not in the film, and that’s specificity: specificity of character and location. Watching this movie feels like watching some very talented actors put on an acting workshop called “Advanced Grief in Small Town America.” On a technical level, their work is superb. But it doesn’t resonate on any deeper level.

Based on a novel by Leslie Schwartz, the film is an intense dirge about the residents of a town trying to get on with their lives after a terrible tragedy. Ethan (Thomas Dekker) drives his son Nate out to the mountains to play in the snow, but by the time they get there, Nate’s fallen asleep. When a herd of deer passes by, Ethan follows, and leaves Nate locked in their truck for a few minutes. When he returns, Nate’s vanished. Practically the entire town turns up to help search for him, but by the time they find him it’s too late. That’s what happens in the first, gut-wrenching ten minutes. For the rest of the runtime we watch Ethan come to grips with what he’s done, feud with Nate’s distant, alcoholic mother Cindy (Lynn Collins), and deal with the fallout from the local district attorney’s decision to charge him with criminal neglect.

From Dekker and Collins down, the cast is fantastic. It seems like every single person who lives in Angels Crest is a terrific actor. Mira Sorvino owns the local diner. Elizabeth McGovern and Kate Walsh are the lesbian couple who are friends of Ethan’s. And Jeremy Piven is the town prosecutor who has a dead child related trauma in his own past.

In individual moments, they’re all good. And the cinematography by David Johnson offers the beauty and cruelty of nature in equal measure. What’s missing is any sort of fabric that might weave these stories and images together into an emotional whole. “Angels Crest” is sort of stuck between an in-depth character study and a wide-ranging ensemble piece. There are too many digressions to keep the focus squarely on Ethan and his despair, but not enough to fully understand the relationships between all these other characters. And it’s never quite clear exactly how big or small Angels Crest really is. It’s big enough that Sorvino’s character doesn’t seem aware of Piven’s tortured past until he alludes to it, but it’s also small enough that everyone else in the town seems to know each other by name. Almost the entire film takes place in the diner, the woods, and a house, so we don’t get a real sense of the place or the people outside the small circle we see. In her post-screening Q&A at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Gaby Dellal said that the novel was much more sprawling. There were more characters, each with a chapter told from their perspective. To fit it all into a movie, she had to whittle down a lot of the details. No wonder “Angels Crest” feels a bit like a CliffsNotes version of a more expansive story.

From its wintry setting to its subject matter to its cast, “Angels Crest” reminded me of David Gordon Green’s “Snow Angels,” an equally bleak but much better movie. It had the elements “Angels Crest” lacks: a sharper eye to detail and a real sense of how this tragedy touched the lives of an entire community. And oh how the end of that film made me cry.

“Angels Crest” opens today in New York City. Is also available on demand. If you see it, tell us what you think. Leave us a comment below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter.


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…


A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.