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Big Significant Things | Review

Eager Yet Flawed: Indie Darling is Safe-Guarded and Traditional

big_significant_things_posterBrian Reisberg‘s debut feature has many of the usual markings of an indie sleeper hit but like an overzealous student whose hand is always first in the air, the rule-abiding road movie delivers all the correct answers, too determined to please. Relying heavily on both the traditional, and the familiar, the premise behind Big Significant Things does hold plenty of promise, and when boiled down, the protagonist, conflict, and plot points all recall rather than reinvent (think Garden State).

Twenty-something Craig Harrison (Harry Lloyd of Manhattan and The Theory of Everything), who fits neatly within the mold of a typical White male with early-onset ennui, attempts to temper his quarter-life crisis through a solo road trip across the South. Fleeing from the looming decision of purchasing a home in San Francisco (perhaps the most unrealistic part of the film) with his girlfriend Allison (voiced by Elisabeth Gray), he demarcates his trip with the charming pit stops at respective largest roadside attractions. Though it’s unclear whether or not he has a destination in mind, the encounters and epiphanies he happens upon along the way is where his self-discovery unfolds.

Craig seeks out distraction from his woes by reaching out to whom he suspects to be other weary souls including a group of teenagers and a crooning karaoke singer Ella (Krista Kosonen) with whom he is instantly smitten. The chemistry he tries to spark is immediately shot down but soon after carries on as a careful and stiff proverbial dance. Though likeable, in spite of his minor tryst, Craig is a tentative character seemingly just going through the motions carefully set-up for a pay-off that pops more than bangs. Tacked along with the aimless journey, Allison’s disembodied voice through the phone, and fleeting encounters, there’s not a lot to anchor the audience.

In a clever point to the title, Big Significant Things tries to encompass the large and thematic plight of young adult anxiety and restlessness, arguing that much like each town’s claims to fame, Craig’s life is also poised for something big and significant. However, the sense of loneliness, longing, and need for self-discovery echoes many of its predecessors without hefting the weight.

Though familiar at its core, the film is executed in a composed and economic manner and neatly packaged for the palette. Generous with the cool palettes created by poolside reflections, neon bar signs, and overcast skies stretched across highways, cinematographer Luca del Puppo captures well the quaint small-town charm and restlessness of a road trip setting with a character bound to his car.

There is a sense of youthfulness that rises on occasion as seen when Craig succumbs to peer pressure to revisit the largest rocking chair. However, the sense of obligation overwhelms as the film strains to create and deliver certain elements that are attributed to an indie classic.

One half of the production team also led by producer Andrew D. Corkin, who was involved with Wild Canaries (another SXSW alum) and Martha Marcy May Marlene, Reisberg is off to a running start with a varied sampling of shorts (Father/Son), commercials, and an upcoming web series starring Carey Mulligan, Zoe Kazan, and Rightor Doyle. Clinging tightly to the genre by which it is clearly inspired, Big Significant Things will ultimately find a rightful place next to like-minded works.

★★ /☆☆☆☆☆

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