Thursday, March 31, 2016

CIFF: "Good Ol' Boy" Provides Nostalgic Open to 40th Fest

Jason Lee (left) and Roni Akurati (right) star in Good Ol' Boy, which opened the Cleveland International Film Festival. Photo courtesy of Good Ol' Boy

From the opening credits of director Frank Lotito's Good Ol' Boy, it's clear that this kid-falls-in-love-with-the-girl-next-door story is going to hook us with its metal Star Wars lunchboxes, odd-colored rotary telephones and plastic kitchenware that serve as instant shorthand for 1970s America.

Set in the final year of that decade, the film merges that nostalgia with the tale of an Indian couple trying to navigate a new land after immigrating to the American suburbs with their two children. The opportunity available to them is obvious, as are the perils of keeping their traditions alive, which all sounds a lot heavier than the movie actually feels. But that thread of tension becomes ever more taut as the film progresses. 

Early on, we meet 10-year-old Smith (his father wanted to give his son an American-sounding name) riding through his neighborhood on a bicycle with a woven flower basket and streamers while calling out to his neighbors through a loudspeaker hooked to the back fender. He is cute and charming and, yes, completely out of his element, even though America is the only land he can recall living in. (We later learn he was 3 years old when his parents left India.)

What follows is a funny, heartwarming and sometimes sad tale that recalls the memories of how adrift we often feel as kids and how our closest friends (In Smith's case, Amy Brunner, the girl-next-door played by Brighton Sharbino, who many will remember as Lizzie from The Walking Dead) become our entire world.

Although the story centers on the kids, it's as much about the parents and the choices they are faced with, and how the simple act of being neighbors soon intertwines their lives. By the end, it's clear that Good Ol' Boy is an American story — one that plays to our hopes, memories and belief in love. 

The Cleveland International Film Festival is at Tower City Cinemas through April 10. For a film lineup, ticket information and more, visit clevelandfilm.org. Good Ol' Boy will have a theatrical release in September. 

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