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‘Creedmoria’ (review)

creedmoria Poster shrunkerProduced by Alicia Slimmer, Clifton Leaf
Written and Directed by Alicia Slimmer
Starring Stef Dawson, Rachel deBenedet,
Ray Abruzzo, PJ Brown, Steve Cavanaugh,
James Kelly, Ryan Weldon

A pretty good coming-of-age tale, Creedmoria, writer/director Alicia Slimmer’s feature debut, begins rather unevenly and ends with a whimper, but the majority of the film is quite enjoyable.

Stef Dawson (The Hunger Games) stars as Candy, a teenage girl growing up in 1980s Queens in a quirky, Italian-American household.

Her father is a good, loving man who also happens to be under the thumb of his brash, domineering wife. Her older brother is an alcoholic who dreams of joining the military to straighten himself out (and get the hell away from his mother), while her younger brother, with whom she’s very close, is harboring a rather obvious secret.

She also dreams of being with studly “leather man” Billy Fenton, but much like another seminal teenage redhead in love, Sixteen Candles’ Samantha, she feels he’s way out of her league.

Creedmoria kicks off with energetic and very fun opening credits, but then takes a short while to find its footing.  I don’t know anything about the production, but it appears that Slimmer and her cast shot the film largely in sequence, as nearly every aspect of the film improves greatly after an iffy start. The film has its share of good laughs and amusing insights, but much of the first reel (as it were) falls flat, with unfunny prank calls and too-broad gags.

Once everyone gets settled, Creedmoria maintains strong rooting interest and entertains throughout. One of the (not unpredictable) joys of the film is the (mostly) 80s soundtrack. A Flock of Seagulls, Book of Love and Tears for Fears, among others, get their due, most notably during some very amusing, recurring montages of the family going to church (on a side note, I hadn’t heard Tears for Fears’ “Break It Down Again” in ages and forgot what a terrific song it was; thanks, Creedmoria!)

The film, like many (most?) other coming of age films, covers most of the bases, such as that shitty job you had in high school, first love (and lust), family issues, the desperation to break away from your family/school/town, etc. Slimmer hardly strikes out in new territory, yet, despite its flaws, she, her cast and crew, pretty much nail the familiar period in one’s life.

The acting is uniformly good, and obviously a coming of age story rises and falls on its lead, and Dawson is certainly up to the challenge.  I’ve never made it past the first half hour of the first The Hunger Games (sorry), so I’m unfamiliar with her, but based on her performance here, I look forward to her future appearances.

While I certainly admire the film, it kind of drops the ball with the ending.  No spoilers here, but the climax felt like a cop-out to me. Not terrible, not good, just…meh.  To be fair, it’s not always easy to end this type of film; most film buffs would cite the famous last shot of The 400 Blows as the perfect ending for a coming of age film (it’s effective, to be sure, but I’d heard too much about it by the time I finally saw it that it didn’t exactly knock my socks off).  I think Susan Skoog’s underappreciated 1998 film, Whatever, struck just the right note of wistful memory and hopeful beginning in its denouement.

I wish Slimmer had gone for the same tone, but hey, it’s her movie and she can end it how she wants to.  Besides, other than the so-so ending and the at-times clumsy opening, her feature debut is quite impressive and well-worth seeking out.


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