Not-A-Dick Flick Pick

  • Stars: David Denman, Gillian Jacobs, Kevin Hart, Ed Asner
  • Director: Brian Jett
  • Writer: Brian Jett

This is an indie that you’ve probably never heard of and that you really, absolutely need to see.

“Let Go” follows three questionable characters recently furloughed from prison and the man who ties them all together, their parole officer Walter.  Walter (David Denman) is not a happy man.  Walter is not a sad man.  Walter is, like many of us, simply stuck somewhere in the middle.  His clients, thieves, murderers, and sex offenders, lie to his face, his coworkers rib him relentlessly, and his doting wife…  Well, he can’t quite put his finger on it, but she just doesn’t do it for him.  There’s nothing terribly wrong in Walter’s life; there’s just nothing terribly right.

One by one he meets his newest clients.  Career criminal Artie (Ed Asner) wants to rouse the old gang and jump right back in the game.  Mournful Kris (Kevin Hart) wants his wife, his life, and his thriving medical practice back after destroying it all with a fraudulent insurance claims scam.  Conniving bombshell and petty thief Darla (Gillian Jacobs) wants to skip town to avoid being de-fingered by her criminally-inclined ex.  Poor Walter just wants to help them all readjust to life.

Naturally, all goals have barriers.  Artie’s old crew has settled down with grandkids, weekend trips, and the Cheesecake Factory, and there’s a girl from a lifetime ago that he can’t get his mind off.  The conditions of Kris’ parole require him to work in spite of his plush Beverly Hills mansion, forcing him through a gauntlet of hideously menial jobs, including valet, garage attendant, and that hot dog guy who waves a sign on the corner.  Darla must seduce Walter, because of course that’s the only way to convince him to sign off on unsupervised parole.  Luckily for her, Walter’s already entertaining daydreams of infidelity, albeit with a heaping portion of guilt on the side.

Denman beautifully channels the most piteous of lost puppy dogs; you just want to fluff his hair and squeeze his chin and tell him to buck up.  It’s a situation everyone has been in at some point, and it’s the glue that holds the loose threads together.  Ed Asner is solid and a little scary as the old crank.  And if you think you know Kevin Hart, you’re wrong.  He plays the straight man throughout, and a heart-breakingly depressed one at that.

This film excels in its quietness, in its reflection of the subtle interconnectedness of ordinary life.  As the individual storylines develop seemingly independently of one another, their fleeting moments of overlap leave you wanting more.  One of the film’s most touching scenes comes from a masterfully male moment between Kris and Walter.

“Let Go” just barely makes the cut for Not-A-Dick Flick.  Don’t get me wrong; Darla is textbook Dick Flick Chick.  Writer/director Brian Jett makes no bones about this “dangerous creature” from page one, opening on: “…bright red nails… black stiletto heels… sultry sashay… flawless legs… vampy top… Pouty lips.  A curvaceous figure.  Looks to die for.”  She calculatingly manipulates every hapless male she encounters with the infallible sexual wiles innate to all cinema bombshells, and her main ambition in the story is to beguile our stammering hero for her own purposes.  But she is a leading character, and she’s one out of four, which meets the threshold for Not-A-Dick Flick.  And kudos to Jett and actress Jacobs for using the mold for good.  Unlike most dick flick tropes, Darla gradually evolves beyond her initial role, lending tangible shape and direction to the story and moving herself towards transformation as she does.

A side note for behind-the-scenes types:  I had the pleasure of meeting Jett, producer Leif Lillehaugen, and actress Alexandra Holden (dead-on as the ditzy but earnest employment agent trying to help Kris) at the film’s Austin Film Festival premiere, and I had the added privilege of reading the script after seeing the final product.  Jett’s writing style is clear, concise, and teeming with personality, and the camera captures his distinct flavor well.

“Let Go” is a finely executed film with understated yet standout performances, an innately human story, and a few beautiful moments of unexpected poignancy.  It’s a shame we don’t funnel more of our money and attention toward these smaller, less flashy stories that actually remember what character development means.  Disregard the massive financial support behind mainstream Hollywood, and “Let Go” reaches a higher plane than the usual major studio flicks.  Take into account the herculean effort it takes for a couple of guys who just want to make a movie, and this unassuming little film blows most blockbusters out of the water.

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