×

Breakfast With Curtis

Laura Colella's tale of a lad's seminal summer will win hearts and minds at Anglo and Euro fests.

With:
With: Theo Green, Jonah Parker, David Parker, Aaron Jungels, Yvonne Parker, Virginia Laffey, Adele Parker, Laura Colella, Gideon Parker, Tory Fair.

If Nathaniel Hawthorne’s seven-gabled house occupies the dark side of the spectrum of New England homes, then the rambling three-story Victorian in Laura Colella’s “Breakfast With Curtis” reps its lighter counterpart. As unkempt, free-floating and bucolic as that Providence, R.I., abode, Colella’s tale of a lad’s seminal summer will win hearts and minds at Anglo and Euro fests, and just maybe a brave distrib in the bargain.

Colella’s project falls into the interesting world-cinema trend of movies that straddle fiction and nonfiction (as the poster ironically declares, it’s “loosely based on fiction”). Painter and publisher Theo Green, owner of the same house (which is also Colella’s actual residence), fashioned a series of YouTube vids with teen Jonah Parker two years ago; these clips form the grist for the episodic, semi-comedic narrative.

Many of the characters play themselves, only renamed. Green is now wild-haired, aging hippie Syd, and Jonah Parker is now Curtis, who lives next door with dad Simon (David Parker) and mom Sylvie (Virginia Laffey). As a 9-year-old boy, Curtis (played by Gideon Parker) mistreats Syd’s cat and gets such a violently worded reprimand from his neighbor that Simon responds in kind with threats to both Syd and his wife, Pirate (Adele Parker).

A chilling effect between the two homes settles in until Curtis’ 14th year. Now played by Jonah Parker, Curtis is an alienated man-boy, geeky, smart and so emotionally cut off that he can barely get a word past his lips. Though that episode with Syd seems to have scarred him for life, the movie sets out to prove otherwise.

Syd’s so-called “Purple Citadel” suggests something stuck in a time warp between the present and the early ’70s, when composting was de rigueur and Carole King’s “Tapestry” was perpetually in the air; the place looks like a multi-colored cake on the outside but is full of funky individuals on the inside. Colella’s thorough and lovingly detailed coverage of the three-story house is easily the film’s strong suit, but so is its free and easy attitude of letting anything and everything happen, as when Curtis begins to use his Web and videocamera skills to shoot videos of Syd, opining about all topics under the sun. The place’s fecund, fun-loving atmosphere, in contrast with Curtis’ fairly conservative home life, becomes the key to unlocking the boy’s creative gifts.

Colella fortunately doesn’t use this video project excessively as a filmmaker’s device; it’s simply one of various activities going under the roof, including Syd’s gardening work, his attempts to get his publishing biz going again, elderly second-floor neighbor Sadie (Yvonne Parker) keeping active, and third-floor neighbor Frenchy (Aaron Jungels) alternating between doing yoga and building everything from trellises to hammocks. In between, folks play mean games of table tennis and enjoy lovely outdoor lunches and backyard movie screenings.

Stuff (rather than plot) happens in “Breakfast With Curtis.” Even when a visitor (Tory Fair) turns up for what seems to be a weekend of purely erotic (and offscreen) pleasure with as many bodies as wish to join her, she’s just part of the house’s ever-expansive life force.

As the only cast member truly required to act, Jonah Parker reveals Curtis inching out of his emotional shell with impressive patience and the kind of commitment that recalls certain adolescent performances in Wes Anderson’s movies. Everyone else, even when they’re not playing variations of themselves, exudes unscripted naturalism. Colella and a tiny crew handle the pic’s tech side with confidence, including a bright and cheery HD lensing palette.

Popular on Variety

Breakfast With Curtis

Production: A ZiaFilm7 and Michael A. Jackman presentation. (International sales: UTA, Beverly Hills.) Produced by Laura Colella. Executive producer, Michael A. Jackman. Directed, written, edited by Laura Colella.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Colella; sound (stereo), Michael Fails; sound designer, Andrea Bella; re-recording mixer, Michael Feuser. Reviewed at Wilshire screening room, Beverly Hills, June 8, 2012. (In Los Angeles Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 82 MIN.

With: With: Theo Green, Jonah Parker, David Parker, Aaron Jungels, Yvonne Parker, Virginia Laffey, Adele Parker, Laura Colella, Gideon Parker, Tory Fair.

More Film

  • Metro 2033

    Cult Sci-Fi Novel 'Metro 2033' to Be Adapted as Movie (EXCLUSIVE)

    Russia’s TNT-Premier Studios Company, TV-3 Channel and Central Partnership Film Company – all part of Gazprom Media – have come together to produce a movie based on Dmitry Glukhovsky’s sci-fi novel “Metro 2033,” which has also been adapted as a video game. Filming is due to start next year. The Russian premiere of the movie [...]

  • Beforeigners

    'Beforeigners’' Anne Bjornstad on HBO's First Norwegian Original Series

    HAUGESUND, Norway  —  HBO Europe’s first Norwegian original series, which debuted Aug. 21 exclusively across HBO’s territories, has garnered rave reviews in the Norwegian press. It is also a perfect fit for HBO’s brand and goal to create bold, smart and author-driven shows. Produced by Endemol Shine’s Norwegian prodco Rubicon TV, “Beforeigners” is helmed by [...]

  • Refugees from the besieged Muslim enclave

    Sarajevo’s True Stories Market: Documenting the Atrocities of War

    Reconciliation and dealing with the tragedies of the Yugoslav Wars has been a major focus of the Sarajevo Film Festival and its CineLink Industry Days event in recent years. The True Stories Market, launched in 2016, aims to connect filmmakers with organizations that are researching and documenting the Yugoslav Wars that spanned 1991 to 2001 [...]

  • Ena Sendijarevic’s ‘Take Me Somewhere Nice’

    Ena Sendijarevic’s ‘Take Me Somewhere Nice’ Wins Top Prize in Sarajevo

    “Take Me Somewhere Nice,” Bosnian director Ena Sendijarević’s coming-of-age story about a teen raised in the Netherlands who returns to Bosnia to visit her ailing father, won the top prize at the Sarajevo Film Festival Thursday night, earning the Amsterdam-based helmer the coveted Heart of Sarajevo Award. The jury heralded the “beautifully photographed, acted, scripted [...]

  • Khadar Ahmed - BUFO - photo

    Bufo Sets Key Cast for Co-Production ‘The Gravedigger' (EXCLUSIVE)

    HAUGESUND, Norway  —   Actor Omar Abdi, who starred in the Ahmed-scripted short “Citizens,” and actress Yasmin Warsame, who made her name as a Canadian model, will topline romantic-tragedy “The Gravedigger,” the latest big screen project from Bufo, the Helsinki-based outfit behind Berlinale winner “The Other Side of Hope.” The film follows a Djibouti gravedigger [...]

  • Jacobs Ladder Movie 2019

    Film Review: 'Jacob's Ladder'

    It’s understandable that someone would want to remake “Jacob’s Ladder,” Adrian Lyne’s 1990 head-trip thriller about a Vietnam veteran haunted by fragmentary nightmare visions. I was far from alone in finding the original to be an overwrought but rather thin “psychological” horror film that was more punishing than pleasurable. And it wasn’t exactly a hit, [...]

  • Fiddler A Miracle of Miracles

    Film Review: 'Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles'

    Still beloved and routinely revived 55 years after its Broadway debut — including a Yiddish-language version now playing in New York — “Fiddler on the Roof” is a popular phenomenon that shows no sign of subsiding. Max Lewkowicz’s “Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles” provides an entertaining if hardly exhaustive overview of how the unlikely success [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content