Easier With Practice starts with an unexpected conversation, between the mysterious voice on the end of a hotel phone (Kate Aselton), and Davy Mitchell (Brian Geraghty), the man who has just picked it up. Other conversations take place between Davy and his brother Sean (Kel O'Neill), as well as Davy and a beautiful would-be girlfriend named Samantha (Marguerite Moreau), all of which have a thoughtful ear for both the words and the message, and how less is more. However, the film's most important conversation comes at the very end, and if viewers have the patience, they will find themselves rewarded with an emotional, powerful revelation that will suck the air right out of the room.
Davy is a loner by choice. Even though there always seem to be people around him, like Sean, Samantha, or Sean's girlfriend Sarah (Jeanette Brox), he seems to hold himself at a distance, less like he is unable to make social connections, but unwilling to. It's possible that Sean has something to do with it, since he constantly gets joy out of being cruel to Davy (he uses a round of Two Truths and a Lie to tell three embarrassing, personal truths about Davy, for no other reason than to please himself), but in any case, Davy remains a bit of a recluse even on his low-rent book tour, hawking his tiny collection of stories about "other people."
One night, Davy picks up the phone and gets Nicole, who sounds like a phone sex operator at first, but calls back, night after night, to talk to Davy. Davy quickly becomes obsessed with Nicole, and the two become close, while Sean becomes suspicious. Upon returning, Davy runs into Samantha at Sarah's birthday party, and it seems like Davy and Samantha have a more appealing, realistic chemistry than Davy and Nicole, but after a particularly torturous evening, Davy becomes determined to meet Nicole in person.
There is a limit to what I can write in this review, because Easier With Practice is a low-key movie, and I wouldn't want to reveal any more than I already have, but writer/director Kyle Patrick Alvarez captures something special about his limited cast of characters. Every one of the six key actors in this movie is excellent, because Alvarez has chosen to flesh them out as much as the time allows, rather than fill the movie with side characters that aren't important. At the party, for instance, we only meet Sarah and Samantha, so we can know them better; everyone else at the event is just there to fill the scene. In fact, Alvarez is almost too careful to avoid giving us more than we need; when everything was said and done, I would have liked to see more of Moreau's character. I can see why Alvarez might have felt more was dishonest, but there are some times you ought to give in.
Of all of the cast members, Geraghty is given the most to handle, and he carries the movie with ease. The actor had a small role in The Hurt Locker, and he seems destined for low-key stardom, carrying almost every scene in the movie by himself. Looking like a grown-up version of Corey Feldman's character from The Goonies, he finds the right level of social anxiety; Davy can strike out without frustrating the audience, and yet it's still perfectly believable it when he keeps it together. Alvarez films that final, overwhelming conversation in an almost uncomfortably tight close-up, and you can practically see the thoughts running through Davy's head. It reminds you that a movie doesn't need a lot to hit home: just two people, an idea, and the right, well-delivered words.
Easier With Practice comes in a standard DVD case. The primary image, of Geraghty lying on a bedspread next to a telephone, is nicely chosen, although the text and logos are sort of awkwardly arranged and chosen (big fonts, small fonts, logos, etc., some of which threaten to run off the bottom edge), whereas the box copy is just a bland wall of writing on the back. No insert is included inside the case, but the disc art is kinda neat.
The Video and Audio
One of the most pleasing aspects of Easier With Practice is the cinematography by David Morrison, which gives the film a look befitting a much more expensive studio production, making every location look vivid and stylized. Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the transfer for the DVD looks fairly good. Details are on the soft side, and dark scenes, like the early, night-time hotel material, display a light amount of mosquito noise and artifacting, but colors and general detail are strong throughout the rest of the picture.
The film's audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, and, given that the film is about intimate conversations between two people, there's not a whole bunch of surround activity other than atmospheric ambience, both of which the track handles with relative ease. A bigger disappointment is the lack of any captions or subtitles for the hearing impaired.
First up, under the "Setup" menu, is a conversational audio commentary by writer/director Kyle Patrick Alvarez, actor Brian Geraghty, producer Cookie Carosella, and writer Davy Rothbart. The most interesting perspective is that of Rothbart, who had the story of the film happen to him in real life (when I watched the film initially, I was unaware the movie was based on a true story). It's interesting to hear his take on the final film, and how his experiences influenced each aspect of production; in fact, it's almost a shame that Alvarez and Rothbart don't have a track all to themselves.
Video extras pick up in the "Special Features" section. The first extra listed is a short behind-the-scenes featurette (4:41), but it doubles as an overview-style introduction to fourteen video diaries (21:07), which have a nice candid fly-on-the-wall quality that makes up for the fact that none of them dig particularly deep.
Trailers for The Trouble With Romance, No Boundaries and Just Like the Son play before the menu, and are selectable under the Special Features menu under "Breaking Glass Presents". The movie's original theatrical trailer is also included. "Slating Easier With Practice" (2:37) closes things out, which, if you haven't guessed, is a montage of every clapboard slate filmed for the movie, and is also supernaturally exhausting to watch.
Roger Ebert says audiences today suffer from "cinematic attention deficit disorder, and some of the IMDb reviews ("I want my two hours back"? "Nothing happens at the end"?) bear this theory through. In the interest of being nice, I am at least fully confident that viewers who won't be able to sit still and listen to what Easier With Practice has to say probably already know who they are. Everyone else can consider this film highly recommended, which is both intimate and deliberate, but ultimately leaps off the screen.
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