The Birthday (2005)
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Review Date: May 23, 2005
Director: Eugenio Mira
Writer: Mikel Alvarino, Eugenio Mira
Producers: Ibon Cormenzana
Corey Feldman as Norman
Erica Prior as Alison
Jack Taylor as Ron
An edgy young man is invited to meet his girlfriend’s parents at the father’s birthday party in a hotel. Upon his arrival, he is inundated with odd happenings, including his girlfriend’s strange behavior, her parents’ snooty attitudes and the overall bizarre nature of everyone else around. As time passes (in real time), we uncover various nefarious things about the hotel and its residents, as does our hero, who must ultimately decide if he wants to be a player in his own life, or a bystander. Mucho oddness ensues.
As seen at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival

A gorgeous looking picture that mixes imagery, fantasy, humor and sound eloquently, but lost me in what should have been its primary motive…story. Despite being fantastical and surreal in its very nature, the film just didn’t explain itself well enough, or keep things interesting enough, to keep me intrigued all the way through. Think David Lynch light…with less dressing. So what starts off as a cute, romantic, flighty comedy set in a wondrous-looking hotel in ‘80s Baltimore, ultimately gets weirder and weirder, to the point where you just don’t know what’s real and what’s not anymore – to the point where you just don’t care about what’s real or what’s not anymore. I don’t mind a few mindfucks in a movie, in fact, I welcome them, but I need for them to be grounded in some sort of mechanism that I could ultimately deduce and get involved in, but the over-the-top nature of this flick’s raison-d’etre lost me as it went along. That said, I still quite liked the film, if only because many of its other elements were creative and eye-catching, beginning with the surprisingly fun performance from its lead, Corey Feldman. Yeah, you heard me…that Corey Feldman! He’s cast perfectly as the geeky frontman in this movie, and apparently shows up in its every frame. I was initially put off by his goofy-sounding voice, which reminded me a little of Nic Cage’s nasally output from PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED, but it didn’t take long for me to become accustomed to it, in fact…to quite enjoy it. The father in the film, played by Jack Taylor, is also a pretty entertaining addition.

The picture also set off various memories from FOUR ROOMS or even BARTON FINK in its design, and tossed a few movie homages in there for anyone paying close attention. I also really appreciated the film’s setting, all of which takes place during a period of two hours in real-time, in a hotel in which various parties are taking place. A great concept which surprisingly hasn’t been utilized enough in movies. The film’s brilliant production design, colors, look and sound also came through, particularly during its finale, which sparked a handful of memorable images and a high-pitched sound within a soundless environment, which you are sure to never forget (you’ll know what I mean when you see the film). On the downside, I wasn’t crazy about the lead girl in the movie, who I thought looked a little too old to be Feldman’s girlfriend at times (she looked like she could be his mom) and didn’t particularly buy their so-called “love”. Mind you, the film isn’t meant to be taken literally and I can certainly see it attracting a strong cult following, or a strong following of folks who will enjoy it as they smoke “the ganja” (me included), but it’s definitely not for the demographic who appreciates their cinematic adventures straight-forward and grounded in reality and comprehension.

That said, I’ve always been one to bestow points to filmmakers who, at the very least, try something different, and first-time helmer Eugenio Mira is definitely in that faction, with a wonderful eye, a creative touch and an obvious love of film and unconformity. Love it or leave it, this film will certainly not leave anyone indifferent. I enjoyed plenty about it, but wish that it had come together better. Oh, and I absolutely love its final shot and cut-to the neat-o end song. Brilliant stuff.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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