“Right Next to Interesting Failures”

HighballAs many of you know, one of my favorite movies is a little independent film called Kicking and Screaming. Recently I discovered a film called Highball, whose cast is composed almost entirely of Kicking and Screaming alums. IMDb has it listed as having been written and directed by Noah Baumbach, yet the DVD case says “Ernie Fusco” for director and “Jesse Carter” as writer. IMDb is smart enough to know that these are pseudonyms, but I have to wonder why. Contractual obligations? Further compounding the mystery is the fact that, watching the DVD, one gets a sense that it’s a demo reel for a proper motion picture to be made later. The editing is patchwork in places, the lighting is awful, and sometimes the audio isn’t properly synched. At first I thought it was my machine, but no, the film is in fact, shoddy. This is unfortunate because there’s actually a good film going on underneath it all. Arriving two years after Kicking and Screaming, Highball features a near-reunion of the former’s supporting cast (most everybody’s here – Otis, Max, Chet, the video store guy, the “you’re pretty” guy, the writing teacher, the EuroTrash guy) as well as the distinctive dialogue-over-dialogue style that marks the work as Baumbach’s. Highball is also noteworthy for the appearance of Ally Sheedy as Ally Sheedy, Rae Dawn Chong as Rae Dawn Chong, and famed director Peter Bogdanovich as a random partygoer who does an assortment of spot-on impressions of Jerry Lewis, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, and more. How weirdly wonderful is this film?

Incidentally, it looks as though Baumbach may be getting some bigger exposure as his co-writing credit appears on Wes Anderson’s new Bill Murray/Owen Wilson feature The Life Aquatic. So he’s got that going for him…which is nice.