DVD Review - Cold Weather

Aaron Katz wrote and directed Cold Weather. Like his previous films as well as the films of his South By Southwest Film Festival collegues, Cold Weather follows a 20-something who career-wise is rather aimless and who appears to be drifting through his existence. Cris Lankenau stars as Doug, a young man who seemingly lacks ambition or any kind of goal.

Doug though is in line with the characters, male and female, of Andrew Bujalski and Joe Swanberg who create movies about lackadaiscal people who some might agree were perfect representations of a major segment of Generation Y, the generation to which Katz and his compatriots belong. As such, their movies end up being a series of scenes of young people hanging out at home or at work, talking about their relationships or random stuff, not doing much of anything but trying to find their way.

Most of these movies arguably don't have plots or much in the way of storylines. These movies are mainly a series of scenes that give viewers an idea of who these people are, what they're feeling by way of these brief experiences. Cold Weather starts off in this vein. Doug moves in with his sister, Gail, played by Trieste Kelly Dunn. He gets a job at an ice factory. He befriends Carlos, an ice factory worker and nightclub DJ, played by Raul Castillo.

For the first third of this movie, it consists of scenes establishing this and just showing Doug hanging out with these people doing various things like eating dinner together or playing cards. None of it is incredibly exciting but Katz does make Doug somewhat interesting. Doug studied forensic science and then left that to do a cooking internship. Out of the blue, he takes his sister to go whale watching. He's a smart guy and a nice guy. He's laid back. Yet, there are things about him that you think could be compelling, but you're initially not convinced of that.

It's not until about 40 minutes into the movie does that change, and, as a viewer, you do become convinced that this guy could be a winsome character. It's at the point when Doug's ex-girlfriend, Rachel, disappears. Rachel comes from Chicago for some job training. She's supposed to go on a date with Carlos. When she doesn't show up, when she doesn't answer her phone, and when there's no sign of her at her hotel room, Carlos gets worried and brings that worry to Doug who reluctantly treats her disappearance like a Sherlock Holmes mystery.

Film blogger Shaun Munro made comparisons to Rian Johnson's Brick, and I have to agree that I saw the same comparisons. The mystery here isn't as grand or as epic, or at least Katz never wants us to feel the grandiosity of the mystery. He teases a bigger threat, but he instead boils things down to its simplest. This movie is about the relationship between Doug and his sister Gail. Gail becomes Doug's girl Friday or a kind of Dr. Watson who assists him in solving the mystery.

Solving the mystery though ultimately is unimportant. It seems to be only a device for giving Doug and Gail something to do together. In a roundabout way, this is about a brother and sister reconnecting. Going down this roundabout, Katz does provide some interesting visuals here and there, nothing worthy of any awards, but interesting nonetheless.

Unlike the recent Twilight films, Katz makes better use of the Multnomah Falls, and while Portland, Oregon, has been the filming location of many films, Katz finds nooks and crannies not often seen. Katz's best sequence would have to be a three-and-a-half minute conversation between Doug and Carlos where the two are moving boxes of ice. Katz's camera merely follows the two as they move back-and-forth within a small space. The movement and the editing here isn't complicated or anything. It's just very well done. The writing is simple and the two guys perform it effortlessly.

On the DVD, you can find a short film by Aaron Katz from 2004 while he was a senior at North Carolina School of the Arts called "Hoopla." It's 20 minutes. It stars Keegan DeWitt who does the musical score for Cold Weather. It has practically no dialogue and is comprised of mostly visual gags.

It's a precursor that proves Katz has a very good sense of humor. The things that Doug and Gail do together are funny, funny in that the two take things so seriously at times. Some of the things that Doug does to solve the mystery are hilarious in that they're so simple and he as the audience is in such disbelief that it was so simple. At one point, when the Doug and Gail are using a station wagon as a getaway car, Doug proclaims, "I can't believe we just did that!"

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated But for 14 and Up.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 40 mins.


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