Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: A Bird of the Air

Quirky screwball romance has many original points of interest, but is marred by fatal miscasting of a lead.

Sept 23, 2011

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1277538-Bird_Air_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

One very unlikely romantic pairing occurs when Lyman (Jackson Hurst) meets Fiona (Rachel Nichols). He’s a withdrawn orphan who works nights as a highway courtesy patrolman, cleaning up every kind of roadkill, while she is a kooky librarian looking for love. When a green parrot flies into his trailer, the two set out to uncover the bird’s backstory.

Working from a well-received novel by Joe Coomer, actress Margaret Whitton (The Secret of My Success, Major League) makes her directorial debut with this updated screwball comedy that has some winsome charm. It has lovely photography by Philippe Rousselot and Whitton has a good feel for character, filling her movie with strong New York stage actors (Judith Ivey, Linda Emond, Buck Henry, Phyllis Somerville, Louis Zorich, Kaiulani Lee and, in a real comeback, Anjanette Comer) playing endearingly varied eccentrics. The search for the bird’s roots, with all manner of intriguing clues like its own parrot-speak, is a rather ingenious gambit which keeps you watching. However, one major case of miscasting mars the film and seriously stymies its intention of sneaking into your heart.

That would be Nichols, whose gratingly perky acting style—like a lesser Debra Messing of “Will & Grace”—keeps you resolutely at arm’s length from complete involvement in the proceedings. Granted, Fiona, always accompanied by her doleful-faced basset hound, with her gabby, pushy, wacky ways (at one point impersonating a blind person so she can bring her dog into a library) is not an easy concept to pull off. But, in the 1930s and early 1940s, the likes of Carole Lombard, Jean Arthur or Margaret Sullavan could have made her weirdness enchanting, nay, mesmerizing. (I even would have liked to see Emond, so brilliant onstage in Tony Kushner’s Homebody/Kabul, take a whack at it.) It’s a particular shame, because Nichols doesn’t provide the essential, convincing chemistry with Hurst, who is marvelously low-key and sexy in his role, although he’s so handsome it takes a leap of faith to accept him as a guy who doesn’t know how to act around women. (Men this attractive, no matter how shy, never have to worry: Someone will always gladly take up their social/romantic slack, however considerable.) The bird and the dog, by the way, are pretty magnificent.


Film Review: A Bird of the Air

Quirky screwball romance has many original points of interest, but is marred by fatal miscasting of a lead.

Sept 23, 2011

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1277538-Bird_Air_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

One very unlikely romantic pairing occurs when Lyman (Jackson Hurst) meets Fiona (Rachel Nichols). He’s a withdrawn orphan who works nights as a highway courtesy patrolman, cleaning up every kind of roadkill, while she is a kooky librarian looking for love. When a green parrot flies into his trailer, the two set out to uncover the bird’s backstory.

Working from a well-received novel by Joe Coomer, actress Margaret Whitton (The Secret of My Success, Major League) makes her directorial debut with this updated screwball comedy that has some winsome charm. It has lovely photography by Philippe Rousselot and Whitton has a good feel for character, filling her movie with strong New York stage actors (Judith Ivey, Linda Emond, Buck Henry, Phyllis Somerville, Louis Zorich, Kaiulani Lee and, in a real comeback, Anjanette Comer) playing endearingly varied eccentrics. The search for the bird’s roots, with all manner of intriguing clues like its own parrot-speak, is a rather ingenious gambit which keeps you watching. However, one major case of miscasting mars the film and seriously stymies its intention of sneaking into your heart.

That would be Nichols, whose gratingly perky acting style—like a lesser Debra Messing of “Will & Grace”—keeps you resolutely at arm’s length from complete involvement in the proceedings. Granted, Fiona, always accompanied by her doleful-faced basset hound, with her gabby, pushy, wacky ways (at one point impersonating a blind person so she can bring her dog into a library) is not an easy concept to pull off. But, in the 1930s and early 1940s, the likes of Carole Lombard, Jean Arthur or Margaret Sullavan could have made her weirdness enchanting, nay, mesmerizing. (I even would have liked to see Emond, so brilliant onstage in Tony Kushner’s Homebody/Kabul, take a whack at it.) It’s a particular shame, because Nichols doesn’t provide the essential, convincing chemistry with Hurst, who is marvelously low-key and sexy in his role, although he’s so handsome it takes a leap of faith to accept him as a guy who doesn’t know how to act around women. (Men this attractive, no matter how shy, never have to worry: Someone will always gladly take up their social/romantic slack, however considerable.) The bird and the dog, by the way, are pretty magnificent.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Tracks
Film Review: Tracks

Ably supported by Adam Driver, Mia Wasikowska commands the screen in John Curran’s superbly photographed drama based on a true story. More »

Hollidaysburg
Film Review: Hollidaysburg

Well-observed, empathetic look at friends reuniting over their first college break. More »

The Zero Theorem
Film Review: The Zero Theorem

A noisy, hyperkinetic, visually gorgeous spectacle that tackles the mother of all big questions–the meaning of life—Terry Gilliam's latest is sometimes frustrating and occasionally outright goofy, but it's never dull. More »

Art and Craft
Film Review: Art and Craft

Documentary portrait of the artist as a disturbed man, but one who is overwhelmingly endearing, functioning and talented—and whose métier happens to be art forgery. This smartly produced and constructed art-themed art-house entry delivers a canvas of caper, comedy and delightful curiosities that engage and provoke some serious thought. Like the hero’s forgeries, it deserves a close look. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

The Maze Runner
Film Review: The Maze Runner

Youths try to break out of a deadly maze in the latest young-adult doomsday thriller. More »

This is Where I Leave You
Film Review: This Is Where I Leave You

Siblings bond, fight and face new problems after the death of their father in an ensemble dramedy based on the best-selling novel. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here