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Easier With Practice

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Easier With Practice
Released on Friday, Dec 3 2010

A couple of guys go driving across America in Easier With Practice, but put the beer on ice, because this isn't Todd Phillips territory. Indie writer-director Kyle Patrick Alvarez allows only moments of dry humour to permeate this dark, twisting (borderline twisted) journey that centres on a struggling writer drawn into the fantasies of a mystery caller. It sounds like fodder for a top-shelf rag. In fact, it's based on a memoir that was published in GQ magazine and is surprisingly poignant.

Much of the credit should go to Brian Geraghty (previously seen in Jarhead and The Hurt Locker) who conveys all the vulnerability that goes along with having an overactive imagination. As Davy, he always seems elsewhere and left open to attack. He is almost too remote at first with Alvarez hiding his camera in the dimly lit corners of small-town bookshops and diners, shooting Davy from a distance as he tries to peddle his unpublished book of short stories. His brother Sean (Kel O'Neill) is the obvious counterpart, loud and brash, bullying Davy because he isn't up for partying.

Then, it's a sharp left turn at Albuquerque where Davy finds himself alone in a motel room. Alvarez finally brings the camera up close - which may have been necessary to avoid an x-rating - as Davy takes an unexpected call and finds himself aroused by the breathy tones of the mysterious Nicole (Kathryn Aselton). It's still a shocking scene and cringingly funny too as Davy fluffs the trash talk. Even so, the calls keep coming and while the lonely scribe is happy to fool around, he needs to know more. Nicole is reluctant to tell, but what is more intriguing is Davy's willingness to drive away the woman who might actually make him happy (Marguerite Moreau).

Geraghty gives a moving, courageous performance as someone who is, basically, a coward. Real life is just too much for Davy and his need for fantasy becomes pathological, giving the film a dangerous edge. Despite being out on the open road, this is an intensely claustrophobic viewing experience and the grimy digital adds to a voyeuristic mood. Davy takes calls from Nicole in dingy alleyways, or tucked up in the back of the car at night, hiding from Sean who delights in humiliating him. The sibling rivalry adds tension, but it's also a stumbling block because Sean seems just as misunderstood in his own way, and Alvarez makes no attempt to understand him.

Similarly, Davy's relationship with his forgiving ex-girlfriend (Moreau) is sometimes difficult to grasp. He attempts to rekindle the flame, apparently to battle his infatuation with Nicole, but there are deeper dysfunctions which are left unexplored. Of course the bigger mystery concerns the identity of Nicole and this is resolved by resorting to cliché. Thankfully, Alvarez treats the moment with sensitivity, having already made a compelling point about the fragile state of the male ego. But like a daytime chatshow, the climactic meeting is also long-winded and a little too touchy feely. What lingers in the end are the things that go unspoken.


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