Monday, November 24, 2008

Rain on The New Year Parade

The New Year Parade does several things right, especially for a film that began life as a documentary and was converted forcibly to a narrative despite grudging resistance from the footage. It takes a sometimes interesting look at separation/divorce in a blue collar South Philadelphia family, particularly from the perspective of daughter Kat (age 16 turning 17) and son Jack (approximately 23). It features strong performances from Jennifer-Lynn Welsh and Greg Lyons (pictured) as Kat and Jack, extraordinary performances considering neither has acted before. It explains a subculture of heretofore alien life forms - the seeming crazies who choose to theme decorate, march and play music in the freezing cold every New Years Day in the Philadelphia Mummer's Parade. Most importantly, the film shows us that the banjo was critical to ancient Egyptian culture.

The New Year Parade is a slice of life, but one with limited organization, some false notes and an ending that resolves almost nothing. The mother's first major scene is an argument with Kat in which mom's lines emerge as stiff and artificial - something lifted straight from a psychology textbook. When Jack considers leaving his father's Mummer's club he gets an extended story about family loyalty from an older friend at a rival club in a scene that sounds great, but rings false. How many 23 year old males will sit silently through a three minute sermon which hits a raw nerve with every sentence -even the most patient will react somehow in the moment and absorb the lesson later.

I've seen too many indie flicks lately. I need automatic weapons, a car chase and a happy ending very, very badly. Where's one of those cynical, cater to the lowest common denominator studio executives when you really need one? Despite my pathetic individual circumstances, I don't think the problem is all me. Director/writer/cinematographer Tom Quinn's debut shows much promise, but As Good As News recommends this film only for those with a driving need to learn about the Mummers or divorce, South Philly style.

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