Making his feature helming-writing bow with “Lovely, Still,” a Christmastime tale of late-life love shown as a diptych, Omaha-based Nik Fackler essentially shoots himself in the foot with the second section’s serious shift in tone. The surprise twist brutally defies the opening narration and plot logic that preceded it, alienating viewers who willingly suspended disbelief. Although it’s lovely still to see vet thesps such as Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn shine in substantial parts, it’s probably not enough to ensure arthouse success.Elderly Robert Malone (Landau) lives alone and sticks to a routine that includes bagging groceries at the local supermarket. He comes home one night to find a woman (Burstyn) he doesn’t recognize in his living room. Identifying herself as his neighbor Mary, she asks him out. Within a day, they’re tight as teenagers in a new romance; that is, until Robert’s feelings overwhelm his fragile health. A mannered performance by Adam Scott as the supermarket manager, and ironic use of seasonal standards further the irreverent, almost Hal Hartley-esque tone set at the beginning. Strong production design by Stephen Altman leads the highly stylized tech package.
A Parts and Labor, North Sea Films production. (International sales: William Morris Independent, Beverly Hills.) Produced by Lars Knudsen, Jay Van Hoy, Dana Altman. Directed, written by Nik Fackler.
Camera (color, HD), Sean Kirby; editor, Douglas Crise; music, Nate Wolcott, Mike Mogis; production designer, Stephen Altman. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Discovery), Sept. 7, 2008. Running time: 90 MIN.
Martin Landau, Ellen Burstyn, Elizabeth Banks, Adam Scott.