The late 1960s - Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California, United States. A boy and a girl meet in seclusion in an isolated corner of the desert and indulge in sexual and chemical experimentation. Mark (Mark Frechette) is wanted by the police for allegedly killing a policeman during a student riot, and Daria (Daria Halprin) is a property developer that is intent on helping develop land in the desert to make new homes. This turns Zabriskie Point into both a symbol of the future and a safe refuge from the outside world.
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After spectacularly losing a local spelling bee as a youngster, the now 40-year-old Guy Trilby is determined to go back and change it. Having developed his spelling ability substantially over the decades, he decides to enter the National Quill Spelling Bee after discovering a loophole which states that anyone past the 8th grade cannot compete. Having given up on academic achievement before he passed 8th grade, the contest's judges struggle to deny him the opportunity to compete despite arrant fury from parents of potential winners who believe that his age now gives him an advantage. Initially rude and insulting towards his pre-pubescent competitors, he soon starts to develop a friendship with Chaitainya; an enthusiastic young boy with no friends who Guy takes under his wing. However, not everyone's happy with what Guy ends up teaching Chaitainya about the world.
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Guy Trilby is a 40-year-old man who dropped out of high school as a young boy and remains bitter about losing a spelling bee. Thus, now older and wiser, he finds a way to enter the National Quill Spelling Bee by abusing a loophole which states that anyone past the 8th grade cannot compete. As he abandoned his studies before passing 8th grade, he decides that he has every right to qualify for the competition, to the annoyance of entrants' parents and contest officials alike as, of course, his age gives him an unfair advantage despite his educational failures. Along the way he meets a young boy named Chaitainya who appears to have no friends his own age and who Guy Trilby gladly takes under his debauched, f-word riddled wing.
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There's an intriguing true story buried inside this overly structured drama, and by playing by simplistic screenwriting rules the filmmakers make everything trite and predictable. Fortunately, the cast is much better than the material, and they bring their characters to life with jaggedly engaging interaction and some resonant emotion.
The story centres on Sam (Pine), a fast-talking New York salesman who is in big trouble professionally. So when his estranged father dies in Los Angeles, it gives him a chance to escape. He heads off to see his mother (Pfeiffer) and find out what he has inherited. But the lawyers hand him a bag of cash that he has to give to smart 11-year-old Josh (D'Addario), whose barmaid mother Frankie (Banks) is the half-sister Sam never knew he had. Without revealing his identity, he worms his way into Frankie and Josh's life. But the Feds are catching up with him, and Frankie is about to learn who he really is.
This is one of those films that hinges completely on the characters' inability to talk to each other. So one honest conversation at the beginning would make this a very short movie! But no, the screenwriters force everything into an unnatural formula that completely undermines the genuinely interesting things going on. Even so, the actors manage to hold our interest, mainly due to some terrific chemistry. At the centre, Pine nicely holds his own in scenes with the wonderful Pfeiffer and Banks, while D'Addario proves to be a young actor to keep an eye on. Meanwhile, side characters add texture, most notably Duplass as a neighbour with the hots for Frankie, and Wilde as Sam's frazzled girlfriend.
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Sam is a successful salesman in his twenties who is dire need of a plan after he loses an $84,000 sale to debt. The loss comes at the same time he is informed of his estranged record producing father's sudden death. After reluctantly flying home to LA for the funeral, he is informed that his father left him $150,000 that he must deliver to his long lost sister Frankie who he never knew even existed, and her difficult pre-teen son Josh. Sam develops a close bond with Frankie and Josh and is shocked to learn that his father left Frankie's mother to be with his own mother.
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Tom Popper is a sales man, it's all he knows and is great at his job, however, this also means his family life is suffering, his kids live with their mom whilst Mr Popper lives in the centre in a luxury apartment. After the death of his father, Tom inherits something that's set to change his life forever. When he receives a large wooden box, he doesn't know what to expect, apprehensively Tom opens the box and a small black and white bird to walk out.
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