The closing film of the Spokane International Film Festival (SpIFF) is traditionally an uplifting affair that celebrates the creative spirit, hosted in the hallowed 102-year old Bing Crosby (neé Clemmer) Theater. This year’s selection - the charming, snide, hilarious Diani & Devine Meet The Apocalypse - was no exception!
Perhaps the highest praise I can bestow upon this film is to say that afterwards, I found myself reminiscing about Shaun Of The Dead. Now, it doesn’t quite reach the rarified atmosphere of Shaun’s supreme heights, but it’s certainly soaring on the same synergy of dry humor, warm heart, and mining of the mirthfully mundane during otherwise preposterous circumstances.
The film stars and was directed and written by the titular and actual couple, Gabriel Diani and Etta Devine, who enjoy the sort of shared chemistry that only real relationships can produce. They clearly exude the same symbiotic comedy that underpins Pegg and Frost’s collaborations; a product, seemingly in both cases, of genuinely funny people working in genuinely loving relationships. That shit shines through.
However, this duo also offers something different. As they navigate a topsy-turvy tropescape of the apocalypse, and life, we see tantalizing glimpses of the couple’s actual live comedy routine, which is laugh-out-loud funny and, in hindsight, surprisingly novel. I found myself asking when last I had seen a comedy couple (not duo) working together on stage or screen. Kaitlin Olson and Rob McElhenney are both in Always Sunny, but they don’t play a couple, and they’re part of a larger posse who all riff off each other. Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner? Before my time, and cut short before their time. I can think of plenty of married comedians, but none that habitually work together.
I know there must be others out there, but considering how easy it is to call up comedy duos who are not "kissing couples" it’s surprisingly difficult to come up with couples who are. Is it that difficult for partners to perform together in comedy? Perhaps, though Diani & Devine sure don’t make it seem so. They were polished, thick-skinned, kind-hearted, and effortlessly funny.
In the few years I’ve attended SpIFF, it’s been clear the festival likes to support the indie film-making spirit. Last year, SpIFF closed with O. Corbin Sleken’s Patterson’s Wager, another oddball comedy with a happy heart, and also an entirely self-funded passion project. Diani & Devine was similarly spirited, funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign, and powered by the compulsion of filmmakers to make films whether the industry will hire them to or not.
In addition to giving these aspiring films an inspiring stage, in a particularly special venue, SpIFF similarly honors a cadre of local short films, which open the closing night’s festivities. This “Best of the Northwest” program comprises unique and award-winning shorts produced by artists from the Pacific Northwest, and this year’s seven films showcased some fantastic emerging talent:
A Happy Ending (Lindy Boustedt; 0:06)
The Boondogglers (Garrett Elmer; 0:15)
Dreamliner (Michael Easton; 0:10)
The Ethernaut (Travis Lien; 0:12)
The Illusion of Talent (Adam Gaulke; 0:11)
Lifeline (Adam Harum; 0:19)
Pie and Whiskey (Chase Ogden; 0:12)
Diani & Devine, however, were the stars of the show, and deservedly left with the SpIFFY for Best Feature. Diani & Devine Meet The Apocalypse, and survive, with their humor, and each other.
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