Saturday, January 10, 2015

Reverend's Reviews: Diving into the New Year

Even as we Movie Dearest contributors are still catching up on some 2014 releases, I had a chance to watch the first worthy movie of 2015 (sorry, The Woman in Black: Angel of Death). It is Kristjan Thor's Diving Normal, gradually making its way across the US with its Los Angeles premiere this weekend.

This romantic drama, adapted from a play of the same title by Fulbright winner Ashlin Halfnight, depicts a unique love triangle. Fulton (played by Phillip Karner) is an attractive graphic novelist having a casual sexual relationship with a female co-worker. His best friend and neighbor, Gordon (Scotty Crowe, reprising his role from the original stage version), is a somewhat off-kilter but kind man devoted to achieving the perfect, splash-free dive through weekly practices at the local YMCA.

While walking through their Brooklyn neighborhood one day, they cross paths with Dana (Susie Abromeit), a former high school classmate of Fulton's. As Dana and Fulton rekindle their friendship and start dating, Gordon also becomes smitten with her. However, Dana is struggling with the demon of addiction and, though initially in recovery, her troubled past and insecurities gradually threaten to derail her.

Diving Normal's screenplay has its share of insecurities too. It teeters uncomfortably at times between gay-ish bromance and hetero longing, as well as between light character comedy (chiefly courtesy of the quirky Gordon) and an excessive depiction of the depravity that addiction can wrought. But the film's lead trio of actors is immensely likable, and Dana's efforts to overcome her dependency on alcohol and drugs are admirable. Plus, gay icon Sandra Bernhard makes a brief but welcome appearance as Fulton's boss.

Director Thor generally handles this delicate material well and the film features a good music score by The Newton Brothers. Anyone interested in quality indie movies and/or addiction stories should check Diving Normal out. Besides, there are worse movies with which to start the new year. Taken 3, I'm looking at you.

Reverend's Rating: B

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

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