Cold Weather

A little bit of narrative goes a long way in Aaron Katz's "Cold Weather."

With: Cris Lankenau, Trieste Kelly Dunn, Robyn Rikoon, Raul Castillo, Jeb Pearson.

A little bit of narrative goes a long way in Aaron Katz’s “Cold Weather,” a listless twentysomething study with just enough of a mystery plot to broaden its appeal. The story of an apathetic college dropout who overcomes his ennui by investigating an ex-girlfriend’s disappearance, pic represents considerable progress for Katz, a founding member of the mumblecore movement. Building on the casually profound promise of “Quiet City” and “Dance Party USA,” “Cold Weather” gives micro-indie fans good reason to stay indoors if released on VOD or disc, though it looks sharp enough to benefit from bigscreen release.

Next to the chatty, relatively plot-free competition in the emerging DIY film scene, “Cold Weather” feels like an all-out genre movie, even if its lone action setpiece — a low-energy car chase — barely breaks a sweat. After giving up on a forensic science major in Chicago, Doug (Cris Lankenau) decides to board with his big sis, Gail (Trieste Kelly Dunn), back in Portland, drifting between meaningless jobs as if trying to delay adult responsibility as long as possible. Fate eventually forces him to engage when an old flame (Robyn Rikoon) goes missing, giving Doug an excuse to practice his amateur sleuthing skills.

To Katz’s credit, things are interesting enough when Doug, his good-natured sister Gail and tagalong co-worker Carlos (Raul Castillo) are simply hanging out, though the mystery delivers the added allure of double identities, secret codes and a briefcase full of cash. Doug may worship at the altar of Arthur Conan Doyle, but his detective instincts are more Scooby-Doo than Sherlock Holmes — this despite a few amusing digressions, as when Doug interrupts his investigation to buy a pipe, hoping it will help him ponder the few clues they’ve been able to find.

Consistent with his cinematic peers (guys like Joe Swanberg, Mark Duplass and Andrew Bujalski), Katz practices a brand of comedy that is as much about laugh-out-loud one-liners as it is about the awkward, unspoken dynamic between characters. As lead actors go, Lankenau proves less expressive than the role requires. He nods his head a lot, but can’t seem to convey his inner feelings beyond the occasional Mark Ruffalo-like scowl. Still, he’s far more familiar (i.e. realistic) than the pretty boys who populate most studio fare, so it won’t be hard for auds to relate.

Since the brother-sister dynamic intrigues Katz more than trying to orchestrate a conventional whodun-whatever-it-is-that-got-dun, the enterprise takes on the laconic air of Robert Altman’s “The Long Goodbye,” as if to say the mystery is incidental to merely observing the various characters negotiate their situation.

Katz has always excelled at bringing a certain look and sound to his work, collaborating with composer Keegan DeWitt and d.p. Andrew Reed (now shooting on the Red) to give the film its overcast northwestern texture, as lens flares and scenic atmospheric shots help conjure a real sense of place.

“Cold Weather” seems to be in no particular hurry to arrive at its destination, and yet, when the end arrives, it feels like the beginning of a promising friendship.

Popular on Variety

Cold Weather

Production: A Parts & Labor presentation in association with White Buffalo. Produced by Lars Knudsen, Brendan McFadden, Ben Stambler, Jay Van Hoy. Executive producer, Jack Turner. Directed, written, edited by Aaron Katz. Story, Katz, Brendan McFadden, Ben Stambler.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Andrew Reed; music, Keegan DeWitt; production designer, Elliott Glick; art director, Joshua Locy; sound, Eric Offin; assistant directors, McFadden, Stambler; casting, Simon Max Hill. Reviewed at SXSW Film Festival (Spotlight Premieres), March 13, 2010. Running time: 96 MIN.

With: With: Cris Lankenau, Trieste Kelly Dunn, Robyn Rikoon, Raul Castillo, Jeb Pearson.

More Film

  • Amanda Awards

    ‘Out Stealing Horses’ Tops Norway’s 2019 Amanda Awards

    HAUGESUND, Norway —  Hans Petter Moland’s sweeping literary adaptation “Out Stealing Horses” put in a dominant showing at Norway’s Amanda Awards on Saturday night, placing first with a collected five awards, including best Norwegian film. Celebrating its 35th edition this year, the Norwegian industry’s top film prize helped kick off the Haugesund Film Festival and [...]

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Richard Williams, 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' Animator, Dies at 86

    Renowned animator Richard Williams, best known for his work on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” died Friday at his home in Bristol, England, Variety has confirmed. He was 86. Williams was a distinguished animator, director, producer, author and teacher whose work has garnered three Oscars and three BAFTA Awards. In addition to his groundbreaking work as [...]

  • Instinct

    Locarno Film Review: 'Instinct'

    Now that “Game of Thrones” has finally reached its conclusion, releasing its gifted international ensemble into the casting wilds, will Hollywood remember just what it has in Carice van Houten? It’s not that the statuesque Dutch thesp hasn’t been consistently employed since her startling 2006 breakout in Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book,” or even that she’s [...]

  • Good Boys Movie

    Box Office: 'Good Boys' Eyes Best Original Comedy Opening of 2019

    Universal’s “Good Boys” is surpassing expectations as it heads toward an estimated $20.8 million opening weekend at the domestic box office following $8.3 million in Friday ticket sales. That’s well above earlier estimates which placed the film in the $12 million to $15 million range, marking the first R-rated comedy to open at No. 1 [...]

  • Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Wins at

    Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Triumphs at Locarno Film Festival

    The 72nd Locarno Film Festival drew to a close Saturday with Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa’s dark and detached film “Vitalina Varela” coming away with several awards together with superlatives from segments of the hardcore cinephile crowd, including jury president Catherine Breillat. In announcing the Golden Leopard prize for the film, as well as best actress [...]

  • Vitalina Varela

    Locarno Film Review: 'Vitalina Varela'

    Frequently beautiful compositions and the theatrical use of a fierce kind of artifice have long been the hallmarks of Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa, regarded by a small but influential group of aesthetes as one of the great filmmakers of our era. For those in tune with his vision, the director’s films offer an exciting lesson [...]

  • Notre dame

    Locarno Film Review: 'Notre dame'

    Not to be too cynical about it, but might the recent horrific fire in Paris’ cathedral attract audiences to a film in which the gothic gem plays a major role? It’s likely a wiser marketing strategy than promoting the unrelenting silliness of Valerie Donzelli’s oh-so-kooky comedy “Notre dame,” the writer-director-star’s return to contemporary Paris following [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content