In 10 Words or Less
The camera captures everything
How many movies are there about young guys trying to hold on to their youth, while at the same time trying to become real adults? Though Chasing Amy is the only one I can think of at the moment (and maybe Gross Pointe Blank, in a way), there have to be tons of films that mine this area. Of course, I've only seen one movie like this from Norway. That already puts Buddy two steps ahead of the competition. Even without its unique country of origin (or perhaps because of it) Buddy is as good a rom-com as Hollywood has produced in recent years.
Kristoffer is a good guy, though a bit trapped in his adolescence, as evidenced by his obsession with filming "Jackass"-like stunts with his pals Geir, a carefree goofball, and Stig Inge, an agoraphobic web designer. Because of this arrested development, when his girlfriend Elisabeth offers him the spare keys to her apartment, he's afraid the relationship is getting too serious, and as a result, he considers sabotaging it. To his dismay though, he's too late. She's already moving on.
The plot gets going when Kristoffer's video tapes make their way into the hands of one of Norway's newest TV stars, who put them on the air, making the threesome reality TV stars overnight. What they realize quickly though, is when you go before the camera, you can reveal more of yourself than you want to. When that happens to Geir and Stig Inge, it's more than their friendship can handle. Whether he can fix things though, while working out his romantic entanglements, including an infatuation with the guys' adorable roommate, Henriette.
Though the plot isn't exactly groundbreaking, and the ending is rather predictable and pedestrian, the whole story is handled in a way that takes it beyond all the rest of the boy-meets-girl-then-loses-girl drek that fills multiplexes. There are several serious plot points, the kind that are never seen in similar American films, but they aren't played for shock or punctuation. They are simply a part of the story. When a movie can swing from goofy stunts to parental strife to mental breakdown, without stuttering, it's the sign of a quality production.
As Kristoff, Nicolai Cleve Broch has the same good-guy persona that Chris Klein made work in the much less authentic American Pie. With his open-book face and charm, it's easy to believe that he's actually concerned about his friends, even if he doesn't make the right decisions for their well-being. Director Morten Tyldum, a veteran of commercial shoots, is similarly good, keeping the camera work unobtrusive, putting the focus on the acting and story, and not the technique. Only when Stig Igne's mental problems take hold does Tyldum break out the visual effects. It's an understated look for an understated story, and that works.
Film Movement released Buddy as the ninth film in their second-year schedule. The packaging is standard now for Film Movement, with a single disc, packaged in a clear keepcase. On the downside, the discs offered by Film Movement have the same generic disc-art design. It's not the biggest deal, but it is kind of boring.
The cover, a two-sided effort, takes advantage of the see-through case, with a review excerpt on the inside. Menus are also formatted to the series, with the main screen animated simply with footage from the film. Options include play, scene access, set up, special features, the short film and an info screen for Film Movement. The scene selection menus feature still previews and titles for each screen, while the set up allows you to turn the English subtitles on and off. There is no insert included, but the film does have closed captioning.
Despite what Film Movement's web site says, Buddy has a 2.0 Norweigian soundtrack, not 5.1 Surround Sound. As a dialogue-driven rom-com, the film doesn't need much more, but the music, a lively set of Norwegian songs, probably would have benefited from a surround mix. The 2.0 sounds good, with some nice mixing effects to give the track more depth, while the dialogue is crystal clear.
Buddy looks very natural, with an earth tone palette that makes the film look "older" than it is. The video, presented in anamorphic widescreen, is quite good, though there's a softness to the image that seems to be from the source material, and not a problem in the transfer. There's not much in the way of sharp detail, but the clarity of the image is fine. The film seems a bit dark overall, but the transfer keeps pace, with solid blacks and very good skin tones. There's no obvious dirt or damage and the amount of grain is minimal.
Compared to the series' early releases, Film Movement's last year or so has seen rather empty releases in terms of extras. Buddy doesn't change that, with a sparse group of bonuses. Aside from some text biographies for the main players and highlights (read: trailers) from the Movement, the main extra is the short film that's included on each release. This month's film is A Ninja Pays Half My Rent, presented in letterboxed widescreen. I have to admit something: this is the reason I wanted to review Buddy. Knowing I would be watching this short made watching an unknown film like Buddy worth my time. Running about five minutes, ANPHMR is a silly look at roommates, especially the trained-killer type. This is easily one of the funniest shorts I've seen in a long time, and it is what makes this DVD so good.
The Bottom Line
For a foreign film, Buddy plays a lot like your standard Hollywood comedy, with all the associated bed-hopping, contrived coincidences and "only in movies" ending device. But beneath the surface, this is a comedy with heart, a look at what happens when life progresses further than a person is willing to grow. Kristoffer, Geir and Stig Inge, and Kristoffer's gal pals, Henriette and Elisabeth, are all at crossroads they probably aren't prepared to face, but as is often the case in life, one is rarely prepared for life's next step. Though the results are somewhat predictable, they are more real than most of what is shuffled through the studio system, which makes this film an enjoyable experience. The DVD isn't a special edition, but the short film is outstanding. You can't rent Buddy, but it could make you consider a Film Movement subscription. Check it out if you get the opportunity.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.