Lovely by Surprise Movie Review
Marian (Preston) is struggling to write a novel, in which she pictures two brothers (Chernus and Roberts) living on a land-locked boat wearing just their underpants. Both of them have an awareness of their fate, and an ability to control it. So when Marian's mentor (Pendleton) tells her she needs to kill off her favourite character in order to find truth in the story, one of the brothers rebels and marches into the real world. He emerges in Marian's past, where as a little girl (Lamer) she's watching her widowed father (Rogers) wage war on his depression.
The three strands of this story--Marian's past, present and imagination--feel completely disjointed early on, and the difficulty is trying to find the point where they connect in some way. But writer-director Gunn just plays with the scenes, layering in themes and ideas and slowly rounding out the characters until each element begins to fit into one story. The wacky, often surreal filming style belies a startlingly serious undercurrent, mixing black comedy with full-on tragedy.
The cast plays with this tone, giving heightened performances infused with humour and charm. If Preston is a little too shrill and bewildered, the film's heart lies with Chernus' smiley goofball and Rogers' car salesman, desolated but doing the best he can. Both of them are utterly disarming, and when they get together the film really begins to connect with us, even though we still aren't sure what's actually going on.
Parts of this film achieve almost Lynchian levels of absurdity through stilted dialog, repetitive imagery and a choppy musical score. But it takes so long for us to get into the groove of the film that we feel like giving up. Eventually, as it comes together, it becomes a bracing examination of the writing process where memories and our subconscious work together to create something altogether new: something with a life of its own.