Short films matter. Vimeo wants you to know it. So do we. That’s why every week we’ll take a look at some of the short film world’s best and brightest. This week, we bring you Noah Pritzker’s chatty comedy Approaching A Breakthrough.
The Plot: A walk in the park leads to a series of uncomfortable encounters for a flaky New Yorker.
Way back in the ’90s there was an entire genre of indie cinema dubbed ‘walking and talking’ films. Some of those films were pretty great – i.e. Before Sunrise, Walking and Talking. Others not so much – i.e. the entire Ed Burns catalogue … minus She’s The One. Which I don’t hate. One would have to guess that Approaching A Breakthrough writer/director Noah Pritzker is well versed in the genre. Unfolding in real time, the film follows Norman (Kieran Culkin) and Claire (Mae Whitman) as their stroll through Central Park turns into an uncomfortable stroll through Norman’s checkered past.
Like the best of the ‘walking and talking films’ films, Approaching A Breakthrough relies less on style than it does writing and acting. And Pritzker delivers a dandy of a screenplay for his latest short. One that’s driven by the old adage about how ‘the past is never through with us.’ He opens the action on the streets of New York where the bickering couple are on the verge of a small time lovers’ quarrel. They duck through the park to avoid Norman’s old psychiatrist, but their fight intensifies when Norman finds himself dodging even more familiar faces. From there, Pritzker escalates the action with a series of increasingly awkward encounters that would feel right at home amongst the best of Woody Allen or Noah Baumbach.
As for the acting? Well, anybody who’s been following Kieran Culkin’s career (The Cider House Rules, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Margaret) knows the actor has the ability to play both comedy and drama with equal impact. While his Approaching A Breakthrough role skews more toward the comedic side, Culkin finds just enough drama in the corners of Norman’s life – past and present – to make him feel less like a ‘charming slacker’ stereotype and more like a fully formed character. Pritzker bolsters the comedic side of his film by pairing Culkin with the magnificent Mae Whitman – who turns in yet another hilariously cynical performance – and a secondary cast of spot-on New York archetypes.
Still, it’s Culkin’s and Whitman’s infectious chemistry that gives the film an air of authenticity. Even in its absurdities, Approaching A Breakthrough does feel authentic. Pritzker keeps the action and the laughs coming at a crisp, jazzy clip. Cinematographer Andrew Ellmaker captures every agonizing moment with a laid-back vitality. And with every passing moment, Approaching A Breakthrough feels less like ‘walking and talking’ homage than it does part of genre canon.
Meet The Crew:
Written & Directed by: Noah Pritzker Starring: Kieran Culkin, Mae Whitman, Chip Zien, Jeanine Serralles, Mason Walker, Sharon Washington and Justine Lupe Cinematography by: Andrew Ellmaker Edited by: Dave Massachi
I hope you enjoy Approaching A Breakthrough! Noah Pritzker’s film made its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival a couple months back. Not surprisingly the film played extremely well with the New York audience. We can only hope it’s enough to get Pritzker – who made his feature debut with last year’s under seen Quitters – back in the director’s chair for a new feature film. Let’s hope he brings Kieran Culkin – who also appeared in Quitters – on board for that project as well, because Culkin really should be making more movies.
Once the credits have rolled on Approaching A Breakthrough, be sure to head on over to Vimeo and check out a few of the thousands of the other short films – animated, live action and documentary – their team has curated for your viewing pleasure (via desktop or mobile device – SWEET!). You’re sure to find something interesting. And you may just stumble across the next great filmmaker.