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Skills Like This

"Skills Like This" coasts on laid-back absurdist rhythms as three twentysomething pals scramble to redefine themselves in the wake of one's self-affirming discovery of his talents as a thief.

With:
With: Spencer Berger, Gabriel Tigerman, Brian D. Phelan, Kerry Knuppe, Jennifer Batter, Ned Bellamy, Marta Martin.

Scripted and thesped by a pair of improv comedians and deftly directed by tyro helmer Monty Miranda, the likable but lightweight 2007 slacker comedy “Skills Like This” coasts on laid-back absurdist rhythms as three twentysomething pals scramble to redefine themselves in the wake of one’s self-affirming discovery of his talents as a thief. The recent worldwide economic nose-dive imbues this Denver-set pic with nostalgia for the days when disaffected youth robbed banks because of anomie instead of economic necessity. Slated to open March 20 at Gotham’s Angelica Film Center, the pic could resonate with indie auds.

Max (scripter Spencer Berger), who sees the curtain brought down prematurely on his writing career when his play “The Onion Dance” triggers his grandfather’s massive coronary, makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to rob a bank. Emboldened and liberated by having found his true calling, he embarks on an odyssey of impulse-driven crime, unconcerned with the loot and often giving it away.

Pic then develops along two parallel lines. A romantic comedy pairs impressively Jewfro-topped Max with bright, comely Lucy (Kerry Knuppe), the bank teller who first handed him the dough. Thanks to the considerable intelligence and chemistry of players Berger and Knuppe, the love story gathers momentum, Lucy increasingly alienated as Max’s boyish looniness veers toward uncontrollable obsession.

Pic lags noticeably, though, during dumb-and-dumber interludes tracing the impact of Max’s new vocation on best buds Dave (Gabriel Tigerman, who shares a story credit with Berger) and Tommy (producer Brian D. Phelan). Dave freaks out at the threat to his comfortable if despised junior exec job, while layabout Tommy, way inspired by Max’s gun-toting glory, dons suit and tie to give gainful employment a whirl.

Less a complement to the main narrative and more a series of loosely connected skits featuring Tommy’s passionate love for his bicycle, “Gloria,” and his inconceivable cluelessness about socially permitted behavior, subplots tend to vitiate pic’s informal flow.

Tech credits are solid. Helmer Miranda and lenser Robert F. Smith succeed in circumscribing the characters’ close-knit neighborhood so intimately that occasional excursions into more densely urban Denver locations convey the shock of discovery of a larger context. Rich soundtrack samples a smorgasbord of local bands.

Skills Like This

Production: A Shadow Distribution release of a Dewey-Obenchain Films production in association with Suntaur Entertainment. Produced by Donna Dewey, Tim Gray, Brian D. Phelan, Paul Aaron, Rock Obenchain. Executive producer, Greg Camalier. Directed by Monty Miranda. Screenplay, Spencer Berger, from a story by Berger, Gabriel Tigerman.

Crew: Camera (color, 35mm, Super 16-and-HD-to-35mm), Robert F. Smith; editor, Rock Obenchain; music, Andy Monley; music supervisor, Shawn Amos; production designer, Pamela Chavez; costumes, Mimi Kaupe; sound, Bob Abbott, Andrew Vastola; casting, Corbin Bronson, Annie Hamilton. Reviewed on DVD, New York, Feb. 6, 2009. (In San Francisco Independent Film Festival, 2007 SXSW Film Festival.) Running time: 87 MIN.

With: With: Spencer Berger, Gabriel Tigerman, Brian D. Phelan, Kerry Knuppe, Jennifer Batter, Ned Bellamy, Marta Martin.

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