April 1, 2015

Wild Canaries

Movie Review

Alia Shawkat and Sophia Takal

Wild Canaries purports to be a quirky independent murder mystery but ends up proving that adding “independent” to a film does not automatically make it better than a wide-release blockbuster. Writer-director Lawrence Michael Levine’s hipster mystery (Hitch-ster?) stars himself and his real-life wife, Sophia Takal, as a Brooklyn couple embroiled in intrigue after an elderly neighbor, Sylvia (Marylouise Burke), dies.

Barri (Takal) thinks the killer is Sylvia's strange son, Anthony (Kevin Corrigan, who is good at playing someone you would suspect of murder). Then, she suspects their philandering artist landlord, Damien (Jason “Son of John” Ritter). While Noah (Levine) refuses to indulge his fiancée’s fancies, the couple’s lesbian roommate, Jean (Alia Shawkat), does indulge her, as a means of maybe winning over Barri, with whom she is in love.

Meanwhile, Noah is in constant flirtation with his ex and business partner, Eleanor (Annie Parisse), who also is a lesbian. The comedy juggles a lot of narrative balls, most of which fall humorously flat. Unfortunately, Wild Canaries is not as smart, funny or cute as it imagines itself to be.

The birdlike Takal makes Barri’s irrational accusations and harebrained sleuthing as cute as possible but is more frustrating than charming. Noah’s perpetual near-infidelity grants his character no quarter. Poor Jean might be the movie’s nicest character, and she’s left holding the unrequited love candle, leaving Shawkat little to do. The red herrings are pretty fishy, but so is the resolution. Letting these Wild Canaries go might be the humane thing to do.