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Off the Black
DVD disk
05.03.2007 By: Scott Weinberg
Off the Black order
Director:
James Ponsoldt

Actors:
Nick Nolte
Trevor Morgan
Timothy Hutton

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A grizzled old loner and an aimless teenager strike up an unlikely friendship. That's all the plot the flick has to offer and it's all the plot it needs.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Gotta give it up for big-name actors who take shots with first-time filmmakers. You know someone like Nick Nolte did earn a huge paycheck for a movie like OFF THE BLACK, but the guy signed on anyway because he liked the script and he liked the director. But it goes both ways, too. When Nolte's got some time off between studio blockbusters, why NOT take a few shots with the up and comers? And that's kind of how movies like OFF THE BLACK gets made: Because a few actors dug some kid's screenplay.

This is a very low-key, character-driven, and chat-heavy little movie, but it's also surprisingly heartfelt, impressively insightful, and actually quite funny here and there. Writer/director James Ponsoldt has set out to make a '70s-style two-headed character study in which quiet conversations and gradual character arcs are the focal point, and thanks to a superb screenplay and two excellent leads, the kid turned out a really accomplished debut.

Nolte's at the top of his game playing a disillusioned old umpire named Ray Cook; Trevor Morgan capably holds his own as the naive teenager who (yep) learns some pretty valuable lessons from his temporary new pal. And when the movie delivers some bittersweet emotion punches in its third act, they're actually quite effective -- because we've grown to actually care about these two characters. (Timothy Hutton also gives a great supporting performance as the kid's mildly disturbed father.)

Just a simple little "people drama," nothing more, but a very well-crafted and heartfelt one all the same.

THE EXTRAS
Writer/director James Ponsoldt contributes a very sincere and straightforward audio commentary that should prove more than interesting enough to those who enjoyed the film. There's also a 22-minute "making of" documentary that features a lot of on-set work, play, and general chit-chat. You'll also find the OFF THE BLACK theatrical trailer.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
If you're a big Nick Nolte fan, or you just happen to like quiet indie dramas that aren't boring, OFF THE BLACK is absolutely worthy of your 90 minutes.
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