Sorry, Thanks is an exercise in inaction. Lauren Veloski and Dia Sokol (co-writer/producer and co-writer/director, respectively) have crafted a film that is barely about anything of consequence; it's less like a feature film and more like a series of edited conversations that runs for 90 minutes. It's a coin toss as to whether "was there a conflict?" or "was the conflict resolved?" is the bigger question. I am a fan of quiet movies that observe their characters, and I'm also not saying I disliked Sorry, Thanks, but it's an aggressively low-key experience to an almost perplexing degree.
The film opens "the morning after"; the participants are Max (Wiley Wiggins) and Kira (Kenya Miles). Max has both a girlfriend (Ia Hernandez) and a dead-end job (in a senator's office), whereas Kira has just ended a seven-year relationship and is in the process of leaving her previous job for a copy-editor position at a local publishing house. Over the course of a few weeks, Max and Kira run into each other all over San Francisco, awkwardly trying to figure out where their relationship (or lack of one) stands, and how that works out given their respective situations.
The most consistently engaging thing about the film is the performances. The story drifts from place to place without much rhyme or reason, the jokes are extremely subtle, and there aren't any cinematic pyrotechnics designed to fry the viewer's senses, but Wiggins and Miles have the required presence to keep the film interesting. Miles is an odd mixture of hyped-up and detached, expressing genuine of-the-moment enthusiasm but rarely connecting to her various suitors, whereas Wiggins is decidedly deadpan and frequently looks confused. Both actors light up when paired with the right co-star (Miles with Moshe Kasher, Wiggins with Hernandez). Hernandez herself, as Sara, is one of the movie's real discoveries: a charismatic, talented actress who nails her handful of beats.
But then what? The answer is, essentially, nothing: the film is about a relationship that doesn't take off rather than one that does, and therefore, after Max and Kira's failed courtship ends, there's nothing more to say. The last 10 minutes of the movie are very interesting for what they tell the viewer about Ia Hernandez's character, but as an ending it's conflicting. Even if the story is over, it feels like a little more time or closure might've been nice. There's also not a whole lot going on during the rest of the movie: hints that Max hates his job, that Sara's mother hates Max, that Kira is settling for her new job, that she's ruining her friendship with her friend Simon (Donovan Baddley) by turning him into a maybe-boyfriend. Based on the DVD packaging, the main plot is about whether or not Max is an asshole (a conversation the characters have early on), but calling it a central storyline is a stretch, since they never come back to it.
The question, then, is what is one supposed to make of Sorry, Thanks, or whether or not it's okay for a movie to be funny while at the same time not really telling us a story. Through those same conversations, we learn plenty of about Max and Kira; in a sense, I'd say more is conveyed about who they are as people than there would be if they had goals and backstory, and if there was a clearer conflict that united the two of them that they or the film could resolve. Instead, we have an almost untouched pure slice-of-life experience between two people, about ups and downs, awkwardness and chemistry, about the lack of a spark instead of true love. At the very least, it's interesting, but I'll be quick to add that many viewers will likely find it frustrating. On the front, the tagline "an unromantic comedy" is scrawled beneath the title. Sorry, Thanks is very unromantic and very funny. I guess that's truth in advertising.
Sorry, Thanks comes in a cardboard "book"-style case with a plastic tray digipak tray on the inside. It's a very attractive package, both in terms of the materials and the artwork, although I wish a little more "border" cardboard was available; the plastic tray isn't perfectly aligned, and is sticking out below the bottom of the cardboard "book" piece a tiny bit.
The Video, and Audio
Baxter Bros. presents Sorry, Thanks in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that has a bit of digital softness and ghosting/interlacing, but is otherwise pretty solid in terms of color and detail. If one really strains their eyes, some very faint mosquito noise is present, and if the contrast is pushed on your TV, it might be slightly more pervasive, but overall, it's a nice looking image.
Dolby Digital 5.1 sounds like you'd expect a movie with the kind of low-fi digital aesthetic to sound: lots of echoey interiors, lots of ambient noise in the exteriors, and not much going on with directionality, other than the occasional song. Disappointingly, no captions or subtitles are included.
The first extra on the disc is "Braintrust" (5:10), a short film that features Sorry, Thanks actors Wiley Wiggins and Andrew Bujalski, and was also directed by Dia Sokol and written by Lauren Veloski. Given that it also takes place in the same kitchen as several scenes in the film, it might as well be another deleted scene. Worth a watch.
Deleted Scenes & Revelatory Nuggets leads to 3 clips: "Heart-Shaped Chocolates" (1:10), "Office Lunch" (1:27), and "Burglarized: The Full Story" (0:55), while "Outtakes, Crew Revolt & Deleted Moments of Brilliance/Idiocy" leads to 4 clips: "Shadow Puppet Porn" (1:14), "On Strike" (0:56), "Hall & Oates" (3:03), and "Deleted Moments of Brilliance/Idiocy" (4:41). All of these clips range from diverting to mildly interesting, but they're mostly so short and about so little (being deleted scenes from a formless movie) that there really isn't much to say about them.
Two audio commentaries close things out. The first is by Wiley Wiggins and Andrew Bujalski, and it's a somewhat dry, meandering affair. It may be a joke, it may not, but the track is affected by the fact that, according to the pair, the first half was recorded and then deleted by accident, or not recorded at all, so the two guys spend the first half trying to remember what they said during the first half, while Wiggins uses a checklist of things they referenced to make sure those same things are still set up when the second half takes over. In any case, the second half of the commentary (not coincidentally, the half where they're a little drunk) is probably the more entertaining of the two, but neither half has much information on the actual production of the film itself.
The second track takes things a step further: Sokol and Veloski commentate on Wiggins and Bujalski's commentary. When I saw the feature listed on the packaging, I was sure it would be a joke, but it isn't: instead of faded film audio underneath the two women, you can hear the other commentary track, which is what Sokol and Veloski are listening to instead of the movie itself. It actually works out fairly well, because Sokol and Veloski can elaborate on topics the other two only touched on, but for the most part, they spend the time joking about Back to the Future and how their film lines up to it (which it both does and doesn't -- certainly the most obscure screenwriting technique of all time).
The packaging lists a Festival Trailer, but there is no trailer on the disc. EDIT (10/11/2010): Director Dia Sokol e-mailed me and mentioned that the second pressing of the discs will include the missing trailer.
I didn't struggle to keep myself awake, engaged or interested in Sorry, Thanks. In fact, it has several laugh-out-loud funny scenes, and two strong lead performances. Still, it's barely about anything, so what can I say in trying to summarize it as an experience? It's more like a moment. I suppose that could be Sokol's intent, but at a certain point, trying to capture the authenticity of life in a film seems almost useless, at least when you're mimicking how open-ended, plotless, and unresolved it is. Since the experience of watching the movie is so hard to pin down, I can't safely award the disc a higher rating than a rental, but rest assured, it's well-made, even if it's well-made in pursuit of somewhat intangible goals.
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