Thursday 24 October 2013

London Film Festival: THE BOUNCEBACK review

Shown at this month's London Film Festival, here's my review of the Austin, Texas set romantic comedy, The Bounceback.

After his long distance relationship falls apart, lonely twenty-something Stan (Cloverfield's Michael Stahl-David) decides to try and win back his ex Cathy (Ashley Bell) by orchestrating a chance encounter with her during an unplanned trip back to Austin, Texas to visit friends.

Although not your typical setting for a romantic comedy (particularly when the two leads are travelling from New York and Los Angeles to get there), this is very much a film in love with Austin, Texas, going as far as having a romantic meet-cute take place of the doorstep of the Alamo Drafthouse. As a lifelong Richard Linklater fan, the city and its culture has long been held in high esteem by me, and The Bounceback only adds to that. Director Bryan Poyser is an Austin native himself, and he goes out of his way to make his film tap into this thriving scene, full of hip, young people. Whether it's the buzzing nightlife or the morning-after diner breakfasts, it looks like a fun place to be.

The film does suffer from a lack of urgency to the initially central love story, due to the two characters sharing little screen time together after the opening credit montage. Stan and Cathy seem like a good match in principle (we're not privy to what exactly caused the break-up except for the long distance), but new encounters soon herald new possibilities for each of them. The much more interesting and watchable pairing is Sara Paxton and Zach Cregger as Kara and Jeff, the warring ex-lovers taking whatever opportunity they can to take pot-shots at each other, including the 'Air Sex' championships that serve as a backdrop to the story. Their increasing bitterness and grandiose crude acts towards each other drive the story forward, even if the culmination of it all is a tad predictable.

The crass nature of the Air Sex championships (that require characters to stand up on stage and perform a variety of creative, vulgar and juvenile sex acts to the air in front of a baiting audience) can be a bit too much, and although impressively graphic, they do detract from the overall sweet nature of Stan and Cathy's new potential love stories with Cellist Haley and macho vet Tim. It's a clash of tones that never quite sits right, along with the increasing feeling that the straight-laced Stan and Cathy probably wouldn't be friends with wild child Kara and slacker Jeff.

The actual narrative may be paper thin even by romantic comedy standards, but with the choice of Austin, Texas proving to be a great choice of setting, The Bounceback is still a fun 90 minutes of modern relationship ups and downs, with Kara and Jeff's 'battle of the sexes' face-offs providing most of the film's highlights.


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