With this charming, rural version of a pre-wedding panic, tyro scripter Reed Fish and neophyte helmer Zachkary Adler have crafted a whimsical coming-of-ager that feels genuinely regional in a laid-back Mark Twain/Prairie Home Companion vein. Lanky, somewhat ungainly Jay Baruchel and his talented young cohorts move flawlessly in tune to small-town rhythms.

With this charming, rural version of a pre-wedding panic, tyro scripter Reed Fish and neophyte helmer Zachkary Adler have crafted a whimsical coming-of-ager in “I’m Reed Fish” that feels genuinely regional in a laid-back Mark Twain/Prairie Home Companion vein. Lanky, somewhat ungainly Jay Baruchel (in the title role) and his talented young cohorts move flawlessly in tune to small-town rhythms. Pitch-perfect dialogue, quietly dynamic helming and small-scale action on a widescreen canvas make for a very appealing film that has real commercial possibilities.

Reed’s local radio program of neighborhood doings and cracker-barrel philosophy, a folksy legacy of his late father, makes him the voice and communications hub of his hometown of Mud Meadows, a fictional small town in the U.S. Aided by station manager/cameraman Frank (Victor Rasuk), he hosts a similar TV show.

Reed is about to marry Kate (Alexis Bledel), the local beauty, whom he has known since childhood. But when old friend Jill (Schuyler Fisk), an aspiring songwriter, returns from college and blows him away with her music, Reed begins to question his choices of career and marriage partner, much to the consternation of the townsfolk.

Midway through the proceedings, the filmmakers reveal the pic so far is actually a film-within-a-film, Reed evidently having decided to leave radio and TV for 16mm autobiography. But the illusion of small-town life is so strong — and virtually everyone appearing in the film is also attendant in the film-within-the-film — that the viewer slips right back into the fiction, accepting the plot twist as a further example of homegrown ingenuity rather than as a breakdown of the film’s fictional premise.

Pic’s power lies not in postmodernism but in its take on how rural youths relate to the contemporary scene. Mud Meadows is presented as being very much part of the 20th century, if not quite up to the 21st; Reed’s pal and also a fellow groom Andrew (a wonderfully goofy DJ Qualls), who is hung up on martial arts and Chuck Norris, triumphantly high-fives his bride at the altar.

Well-known cast of young pros appears downright indigenous.

Pic’s unsentimental immersion in the rural pace, textures and rituals is well served by Doug Chamberlain’s ‘scope lens. Other tech credits are excellent, with Schuyler Fisk’s music effective.

I'm Reed Fish

Production

A Squared Foot production. Produced by Bader Alwazzan. Executive producers, Akiva Goldsman, Kerry Foster, Michael Mihalke. Directed by Zachkary Adler. Screenplay, Reed Fish.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Doug Chamberlain; editor, Yuka Reull; music, Roddy Bottum; music supervisor, Toby Record; production designer, Ariana Nakata; sound, Brendan Beebe, Kasper Hugentobler; casting, Carol Barlow. Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival (Discovery), May 3, 2006. Running time: 93 MIN.

With

Jay Baruchel, Alexis Bledel, Schuyler Fisk, DJ Qualls, A.J. Cook, Victor Rasuk, Katey Sagal, Chris Parnell.

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