Frownland (tbc)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner08/07/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 106 mins

Writer-director Ronald Bronstein's debut is an uncompromising character study of an alienated, unlikeable loser, featuring a superb performance by Dore Mann – it's a real struggle to spend 106 minutes in this guy's company, but that's sort of the point.

What's it all about?
Written, directed and edited by Ronald Bronstein, Frownland is set in New York and stars Dore Mann as Keith, a painfully inarticulate door-to-door coupon salesman who's getting increasingly frustrated with his annoying musician flatmate Charles (Paul Grimstad), not least because the flat they share is so tiny that Keith has to sleep in the kitchen. There's no plot to speak of, but the film basically follows Keith as he tries (and fails) to communicate with a variety of people, whether it's his potential customers, his unsympathetic boss (Carmine Marino), his supposed and apparently only friend Sandy (David Sandholm) or his weirdly shy would-be girlfriend Laura (Mary Wall), who sleeps with her face to the wall and sticks him with a thumb tack when he tries to talk to her.

The Good
Shot in 2007, Frownland has been lumped in with the ultra-low-budget mumblecore movement, but it's also possible to read the film as a kick against that movement, since Keith is a more or less typical mumblecore (one reviewer dubbed Frownland “stuttercore”) protagonist, but he's essentially incoherent and practically impossible to like (Charles calls him a “burbling troll”). Bronstein does actually give the audience a brief break from hanging around with Keith, but only by spending time with the equally annoying Charles, in an amusing scene where he applies for a job and has to take a test that asks questions like “What is an espresso?”

The Great
Mann's performance is a mess of facial tics, spluttered half-sentences and angry frustration, but it works brilliantly – once you've resisted the urge to run away, Keith becomes slightly more sympathetic, particularly when you realise that Charles is even worse. In addition, the offbeat and unsettling keyboard score (composed by Grimstad himself) is used extremely well – there's a terrific scene where Keith is driven slowly mad by Charles's music that will strike a chord with anyone who's ever had to put up with an annoying flatmate.

Worth seeing?
Playing like an extreme version of Greenberg, Frownland won't appeal to everyone but it's definitely worth seeing and marks writer-director Bronstein out as a talent to watch.

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Content updated: 22/10/2017 14:31

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