How To Be
Sometimes We All Need A Little Help
By: Barbara Morden
Director Oliver Irving’s How To Be is truly an indie film, along the lines of Napoleon Dynamite and Little Miss Sunshine. This film has similar wince-inducing scenes, often making it painful to watch because of the way the characters act.Ultimately, it’s the study of a non-functional family and the story of the awkward lead character, played so convincingly by Robert Pattinson; it takes a bit to realize what a brilliant performance it truly is. There were times you had to laugh because, if you didn’t, you’d have to look away.
Filmed before Twilight, Pattinson’s new-found star power found fans rallying to his cause, launching a viral campaign to aid in obtaining a distribution deal for the film by flooding Facebook and MySpace pages devoted to the movie, as well as Pattinson’s own IMDB message board to discuss the film.
A screening during the recent Burbank International Film Festival was unsurprisingly filled with a Twilight female fan-throng of various ages.
Satirical yet human, How To Be opens a psycho/social dialogue through comedy about fitting in, as 20-something Art takes off on a journey of self-examination.
Gozde: Spoiler alert for the italic part of this interview. I don't know how anyone can write a review without a bit of spoilers so I say read on but don't get mad at me later :)
Art is having a quarter-life crisis — the result of being broken as a child by cold, distant parents (Michael Irving and Rebecca Pidgeon). Years later, as an aimless young adult, Art’s life is nowhere and falling apart. His girlfriend Jessica (Alisa Arnah) dumps him, saying she believed him to be brooding and enigmatic; she thought he was deep but has come to realize he is just sad and unhappy. He moves home with his parents who don’t have time for him, and his emotional detached mother all but blurts out he is a failure and disappointment, and calls his existence an “oxymoron.” In American hands, the film wouldn’t be a dark comedy but some making-of-a-psycho-killer story. But the Brits know how to walk that tension line of black humor. An inheritance from a deceased uncle sets changes in motion. Art stumbles on a self-help book by Canadian therapist Dr. Levi Ellington (Powell Jones) and flies him to the UK to help him become “more normal.” Art quits a dead-end job and gets fired from a volunteer position at a special needs center which he was ultimately using to feel better about himself. Meanwhile, his motley group of friends are just as screwed up as he is. There’s Ronny (Johnny White) the agoraphobic, and Nikki (Mike Pearce), a guy who is just plain odd. Ronny suggests they all form a band, which sets up the film’s conclusion.
Really, this little film (only just past 80 minutes), which has already won a number of different film festival honors, is all about Art searching for a way to fit in and realizing his parents will never accept him for what he is or wants to be — something more like us than one might guess.
How many of us yearn to find life’s important quest: Where are we going? How To Be is a lesson about how to be and how to live…or at least one way to do it. By accepting ourselves, we can achieve happiness because we have to make it on our own…although help is there, if you see beyond the pain.
Thanks to Barbara for sharing her review with us.