×

Upstate

Still waters run shallow in "Upstate," a dull, directionless attempt to imbue an uneventful weekend getaway with unearned personal and generational import. Though the film is brightened by some nice photography and two game, soulful performances, first-time co-directors Katherine Nolfi and Andrew Luis simply lack the experience to properly pull off a brooding chamber-piece like this, mistaking lifelessness for subtlety and mild eccentricities for character -- and the results feel distractingly dishonest. Beyond fests, prospects look slim.

With:
With: Iracel Rivero, Max Arnaud, Suzan Mikiel Kennedy, Ligia Castillo, Robert Mercado, Kimani Shillingford, Mimi Weisbond.

Still waters run shallow in “Upstate,” a dull, directionless attempt to imbue an uneventful weekend getaway with unearned personal and generational import. Though the film is brightened by some nice photography and two game, soulful performances, first-time co-directors Katherine Nolfi and Andrew Luis simply lack the experience to properly pull off a brooding chamber-piece like this, mistaking lifelessness for subtlety and mild eccentricities for character — and the results feel distractingly dishonest. Beyond fests, prospects look slim.

Glacially paced film centers around late-twentysomething New Yorker Liz (Iracel Rivero), who, after spending a long period in isolation following a family death, heads upstate to spend the weekend with old friend Steve (Max Arnaud) and his new wife, Sylvia (Suzan Mikiel Kennedy) in their rural home.

The threesome have awkward dinners together, make small talk, and listlessly wander around thrift stores, petting zoos and old Shaker colonies, seemingly awaiting instruction from the filmmakers on when to begin initiating a plot. Eventually, a sense of mistrust and competition between the two women begins to ripple the waters of total inactivity, though no sooner has it arisen than it’s quashed by a bout of pot smoking and further, though now less awkward, small talk.

Popular on Variety

Rivero and Kennedy are both appealing thesps, and their characters both feel like refreshingly real women, though it’s hard to discern why this particular weekend in their lives should be worthy of such detailed documentation. Arnaud’s Steve, on the other hand, merely vacillates between yuppie smugness and childish obnoxiousness; he’s frustratingly two-dimensional, and it’s unfathomable that either of these women would consent to spend much time with him, let alone (quietly) fight over his affection. Considering this comprises the entire narrative thrust of the film, it’s no small issue.

Photography of the Catskills mountains is lovely to look at, and technical contributions are mostly pro.

Upstate

Production: A Ground Glass Film production. Produced by Melanie Pimentel, Katherine Nolfi, Andrew Luis. Executive producer, Jennifer Fox. Directed by Andrew Luis, Katherine Nolfi. Screenplay, Nolfi.

Crew: Camera (color, 16mm), Brian Feeney; editors, Ben Brown, Luis, Nolfi; music supervisor, Macrae Semans; art directors, Allyson Vieira, Lisa Duva, Meg Charlton, Melanie Pimentel; sound, Erin Greenwell, Arya Sundar; assistant director, Duva. Reviewed at SAG Foundation Actors Center Theater, Los Angeles, June 9, 2010. (In Los Angeles Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 80 MIN.

With: With: Iracel Rivero, Max Arnaud, Suzan Mikiel Kennedy, Ligia Castillo, Robert Mercado, Kimani Shillingford, Mimi Weisbond.

More Film

  • Promising Young Woman

    'Promising Young Woman': Film Review

    Given that the entertainment industry is pretty much the center of the #MeToo universe in terms of generating its most public effects — and, needless to say, causes — probably no Sundance film this year will be as hot a conversation topic as “Promising Young Woman.” Emerald Fennell’s first directorial feature is a female revenge [...]

  • Little Women Movie

    'Little Women,' 'Fleabag' Win USC Scripter Awards

    Greta Gerwig’s script for “Little Women” has won the USC Libraries Scripter Award for best movie adaptation and “Fleabag” has taken the television award. The winners were announced Saturday night at USC’s Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library. “Little Women” topped “Dark Waters,” “The Irishman,” “Jojo Rabbit,” and “The Two Popes.” All but environmental drama [...]

  • Four Good Days

    'Four Good Days': Film Review

    Addiction, you could say (and I would), has become the central demon that plagues Americans. We’re addicted to everything: alcohol, illegal drugs, pharmaceutical drugs, psychotropic drugs, sugar-bomb soft drinks, processed food, video screens…you name it. In theory, addiction was made for drama, because it rips up the fabric of people’s lives, and that’s intensely dramatic. [...]

  • Netflix backed animated films “Klaus,” left,

    'Klaus,' 'I Lost My Body' Top 47th Annie Awards as Netflix Dominates

    Netflix dominated the 47th Annie Awards on Saturday, Jan. 25, picking up 19 trophies, including the top prizes of best feature (“Klaus”), best feature-independent (“I Lost My Body”), best TV/media production for preschool children (“Ask the Storybots”) and best general audience TV/media production (“BoJack Horseman”). Disney TV Animation’s “Disney Mickey Mouse” won best TV/media production [...]

  • Disney Myth A Frozen Tale

    ‘Frozen 2’-Inspired VR Film ‘Myth’ Creates Beautifully Immersive ‘Fairy Tale Within a Fairy Tale’

    With “Myth: A Frozen Tale,” Disney Animation has crafted a visually stunning virtual-reality short film — a project that flexes its VR muscles but deftly uses the technology in service of storytelling. Sometimes VR experiences feel like proof-of-concepts straining to justify their 3D settings. “Myth,” by contrast, employs virtual reality so effectively it feels like [...]

  • 'Dick Johnson is Dead' Review: Kirsten

    'Dick Johnson is Dead': Film Review

    Death isn’t wasted on the dead, exactly, but much that follows in its black-veiled wake is: A heartfelt eulogy, after all, is often composed of warm words we should have shared with the deceased before they turned cold. Eighties soft-rock band Mike and the Mechanics had a #1 hit with this very observation, of course: [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content