TIFF Report: Reprise Review

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[TIFF info page here.]

Joachim Trier's multi-award winning Reprise is that rarest of rare things: a film smart enough to have something meaningful to say yet entertaining enough the the masses won't even notice it's saying anything until it's all over and done with. Equal parts coming of age comedy, young romance, and psychological drama Reprise is, above all, a film about creating art.

Freshly into their twenties Phillip and Erik are aspiring writers ready to conquer the world. Their first manuscripts are completed and already dreams of literary glory and the romance of the artistic life are filling their heads. Literally filling their heads, in the case of Erik, who opens the film with a hysterical montage of enormously cliched scenarios that he imagines in his and Phillip's shared future. But the future never plays out the way we want it to and dreams are shattered mere weeks later when Erik's manuscript is coldly rejected while Phillip's goes on to win him much acclaim. Too much acclaim, in fact, for the somewhat fragile Phillip who buckles under the pressure, becomes self destructive, and six months later is released from a lengthy stay in hospital to try and reintegrate into regular life.

A difficult film to summarize Reprise is a film made up of moments more than of stories, the key moments that we remember later in life as having shaped us despite, or often because of, their seeming insignificance. It's a film that captures youth on the cusp of adulthood, just at that point when most coming of age films have ended, when the protagonists believe they have arrived despite being blissfully, hilariously clueless about what life is actually about. It is a film about wanting to project the veneer of adulthood while still clinging to the immaturity of childhood. It is brash, energetic, very funny, and gifted with an incredibly strong cast that brings surprising depth to the proceedings.

A first time director Trier proves himself remarkably adept at moving between moods, flitting easily between comedy, romance and tragedy - simply refusing to delineate these different elements into neat little compartments because this is simply not how life happens. In Erik he has an engaging and entertaining narrator who may shape and color the progress of the film but never dominates it. In the duo of Erik and Phillip he captures the inevitable strains of childhood friendships growing and adapting to a changing life, in the extended peer group not only some wicked comic moments but a surprising depth of social commentary. The soundtrack also kicks much ass.

As adept as Trier is, however, it would come to nothing if not for his gifted young cast, particularly Anders Danielsen Lie as Phillip and Espen Klouman Høiner as Erik. Høiner does an admirable job of capturing both the innocent hopes of Erik as well as his quiet frustration at being outstripped by his freind's skills not to mention his complete ignorance of his own selfishness. Lie is an absolute revelation as Phillip, an enormously talented young actor who easily captures one of the most complicated, complex and fragilely beautiful characters I've seen on screen in some time. Lie is given the difficult taks of taking Phillip through a transformation from a typical twenty year old, through a severe mental breakdown and back out the other side and he does a simply perfect job of it, carrying a huge wealth of information in a glance.

At 105 minutes the film runs just a touch long and could likely stand a little bit of tightening up but Reprise very clearly marks Trier and his young cast as significant talents to watch. Very highly recommended.

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