Buddy

Its "Jackass"-inspired story hook aside, "Buddy" is a beguiling, if somewhat overly plotted, romantic comedy-drama about urban Oslo twentysomethings finding their way in life and love. Pic, which has tested well in its native Norway, should parlay strong August opening into fest slots, brisk, if limited, regional sales and high-profile ancillary.

With:
Kristoffer - Nicolai Cleve Broch Geir - Aksel Hennie Henriette - Pia Tjelta Stig Inge - Anders Baasmo Christiansen Elizabeth - Janne Formoe

Its “Jackass”-inspired story hook aside, “Buddy” is a beguiling, if somewhat overly plotted, romantic comedy-drama about urban Oslo twentysomethings finding their way in life and love. Pic, which has tested well in its native Norway, should parlay strong August opening into fest slots, brisk, if limited, regional sales and high-profile ancillary.

In the heart of downtown, three chums share an apartment in the elaborate Toyen Center block of flats and shops. Genial 24-year-old Kristoffer (Nicolai Cleve Broch) and fearless Geir (Aksel Hennie) work hanging billboards, but their hobby is constantly recording each other on video tape doing chores, hanging around and performing impromptu public stunts.

Husky neatnik Stig Inge (Anders Baasmo Christiansen), who owns the apartment, uses his new Web design business as an excuse to indulge his phobia of the outside world; he hasn’t left the apartment complex for two years.

When g.f. Elizabeth (Janne Formoe) officially bestows her house keys on Kristoffer, he freaks out at the very thought of commitment; the return of her keys instigates a breakup. Meanwhile, some of Kristoffer and Geir’s video tapes left at the scene of a stunt find their way to a local television station, prompting their hiring for a verite segment dubbed “Kristoffer’s Video Diary.”

But the path to celebrity status isn’t without its pitfalls. Though moping over Elizabeth, Kristoffer develops a strong connection with new temporary flatmate Henriette (Pia Tjelta). For their parts, Geir tries to keep the secret of an illegitimate son, and Stig Inge, whose hermit-like behavior has been sold to the public as an act, must confront his phobia once and for all.

To their credit, writer Lars Gudmestad and debuting helmer Morton Tyldum have downplayed the sensationalist elements inherent in the “Jackass” hook, using it to jumpstart the narrative rather than dwelling on a series of crude stunts. If anything, pic is on the sweet side, but sells itself on the strength of solid, sympathetic characterizations from the five leads. This appeal propels story through some stray plot threads; about 10 minutes of trimming would be welcome.

Tech credits are crisp, with d.p. John Andreas Andersen mercifully limiting the amount of camcorder footage to the opening credits in favor of more traditional — and stable — framing. A catalog of bright pop songs punctuates the proceedings.

Buddy

Norway

Production: A Sandrew-Metronome release (in Finland) of a Happy Endings presentation, production. (International sales: NonStop, Stockholm.) Produced by Gudny Hummelvoll. Executive producers, Knut Jensen, Bjorn Jensen. Directed by Morten Tyldum. Screenplay, Lars Gudmestad.

Crew: Camera (color), John Andreas Andersen; editor, Eli Nilsen; music, Lars Lillo-Stenberg; production designer, Billy Johansson; costume designer, Ingvild Eiring; sound (Dolby Digital), Morten Solum, Hugo Og Erik. Reviewed at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (competing), July 6, 2003. Running time: 101 MIN.

With: Kristoffer - Nicolai Cleve Broch Geir - Aksel Hennie Henriette - Pia Tjelta Stig Inge - Anders Baasmo Christiansen Elizabeth - Janne Formoe

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