Lovely by Surprise (Indigenous Film Works)

dvd_lovely-by-surprise_sm.jpgLovely by Surprise is an odd, odd movie with a lot of charm.







dvd_lovely-by-surprise_250.jpgIt’s not uncommon for writers of fiction to get so caught up in their work that they feel a certain kinship with the characters they’ve created. It probably happens less often, though, that a writer crafts a character who knows they’re being written.

Such is the case with Humkin (Michael Chernus), a strange man who lives on a boat with his equally strange brother Mopekey (Dallas Roberts). Both are characters in a novel being written by Marian (Carrie Preston), a writer whose inspiration is faltering. But when Marian tries to kill off Humkin in an attempt to get her writing groove back, he manages to escape from the world she’s created for him.

Lovely by Surprise is an odd, odd movie with a lot of charm. Marian’s story is interspersed with that of a car salesman, Bob (Reg Rogers), who’s lost his sales mojo and is on the verge of losing his job. The two stories are connected in a surprising way, but the film takes way too long to let us in on the secret—so much so that wondering "what’s the car guy got to do with the writer" is actually sort of distracting during the film’s first half.

Once the stories converge, well, things get kind of weird and the questions keep coming. Is Humkin truly a part of the real world? Why is writing the book such an intense experience for Marian? Does Mopekey know more about reality than he lets on? How much of what we see happen to Bob is real? By the end of the movie, I wasn’t entirely sure what had occurred or even when it had occurred, but I still liked what I’d seen.

Each story on its own is really lovely. Writer/director Kirt Gunn has infused each segment with wit, pathos and just enough confusion to keep the audience intrigued and caring about the characters. That’s something that many larger movies often fail to do.

The real treat in Lovely by Surprise is the performances. Preston does wonderful work as Marian. She’s committed to her work, but the stress of trying to finish the novel is clearly making her a bit fragile. Rogers is completely, visibly wounded as a man who’s lost a lot more than his calling. And each supporting player fully grounds you in their respective world, whether that’s reality, fiction or something in between. | Adrienne Jones

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