« Starz Denver Film Festival 2010 - A Family | Main | Starz Denver Film Festival 2010 - God's Land »

November 11, 2010

Starz Denver Film Festival 2010 - Fanny, Annie & Danny

fanny annie & danny.jpg

Chris Brown - 2010
CB Films

Will Fanny, Annie & Danny be a Christmas perennial like It's a Wonderful Life? Probably not. Even The Ref and Bad Santa offer more holiday cheer. But the truth is that the holiday season isn't the most wonderful time of the year. More often than not, I've observed it to be the most anxious time of the year, with a day that frequently ends with the disappointment of unfulfilled expectations.

Beyond the title, which might seem too cute, is a story of a dysfunctional family gathering together for Christmas dinner. Except that it's not Christmas Day or even Christmas Eve, but the week before Christmas, because the mother, Edie, can't handle celebrating Christmas on its calendar day. In introducing his characters, Chris Brown lets us know that each of them has some form of obsessive-compulsive behavior. Edie over decorates her house with not only the tree and presents, but a variety of nutcracker dolls throughout the house, and even holiday themed wash cloths in the bathroom. Fanny is first observed playing a recorder, erroneously called a flute in the group home she lives in, disturbing others by her insisting on practicing her songs at Six in the morning. As a dental assistant, Annie places the instruments just so, and constantly talks about her upcoming wedding to unemployed pothead Todd. Danny, sees nothing wrong with taking extra money, budgeted for the band he represents. This is about a family dynamic that is constantly combustible.

This is a comedy, by the way. And a frequently amusing one at that. Part of it is caustic and corrosive, with some of the insults that these family members fling at each other, but part of it is due to the recognition that this is sometimes how family members actually act. The name calling and incidents are part of the catalogue of human foibles that are never too quirky to have only been created a Hollywood screenwriter. There's the awful looking tuna casserole that accidentally gets dropped, the mean spirited dumping of the father's few remaining possessions from his time in Viet-Nam, the attention given to the favored child at the expense of the other siblings, among the series of hurts and injuries. Todd, the only non-family member with significant screen time, at first seems like a cliche, calling everyone "Dude", more concerned about staying high than looking for a job. Todd also manages to be one of the more endearing characters, probably because he's not a family member. When Annie smells what remains of what is claimed to be a very small morning toke, she tells Todd that he "smells like Cheech and Chong", a line that is simultaneously mean, true and laugh out loud funny.

Hopefully Fanny, Annie & Danny will have a life outside of film festival screenings. Chris Brown goes into some dark places most filmmakers and filmgoers would rather not bother with, but conversely think of all the so-called comedies that can barely elicit a smirk or a sneer, much less a chuckle or two. Brown works with local actors, including wife Jill Pixley, in the San Francisco area, and the film is shot in less recognizable locations in Tracy and Hayward. Especially at a time when the label "independent filmmaker" has almost lost its meaning, this is a film worth going out of the way to see should the opportunity arise.

(Viewed as a DVD screener)

Posted by peter at November 11, 2010 08:56 AM