Daddy Longlegs follows a man who is unfit to be a parent. Although he looks after his two young kids in the middle of New York City for two weeks out of the year, that's more than enough time for everyone and everything to spiral completely out of control. From the Safdie Brothers, this bizarre and terrifying look into parenting is something truly special and wicked. Criterion hits a home run with the 1080p HD video transfer and its 2.0 stereo audio mix. The bonus features are worth the watch as well. Highly Recommended!
Before Ben and Josh Safdie made Uncut Gems and Good Time, one of their first feature films tackled their own childhood within the film Daddy Longlegs. It's not an Arachnophobia prequel, although Daddy Longlegs could be considered a hellish nightmare of epic proportions for anyone who has been a parent. Traveling over the course of two weeks with a divorced dad who has his kids for fourteen days, what seems to start out as a fun and energetic time with family, quickly turns into a manic and horrifying dungeon of irresponsibility that crosses into. criminal territory. Although it's difficult to root for this anti-protagonist here, there is some unexpected beauty within the confines of this immature trio set in New York City.
Based loosely on the Safdie's own childhood with their father, Daddy Longlegs captures two weeks of a man named Lenny (played expertly by the Safdie's long-time collaborator and friend Ronald Bronstein). Lenny works as a movie projectionist and has two young kids Sage and Frey (real-life brothers) from a past marriage where he's allowed only two weeks a year of custody. Spending only a few minutes with Lenny, it's extremely hard to figure out why his ex-wife would even entertain three-hour custody, let alone a two-week stay. Lenny is not a father figure, nor a role model. Sure, he can have fun with anyone, but that can turn on a dime into anger. Lenny throws himself into a whirlwind of escapades for no reason whatsoever that usually ends up in volatile situations, whether it be with random strangers or the woman he is seeing at the moment.
Much like Howard's constant chaotic life in Uncut Gems, Lenny chooses this chaos, even though he could easily lead a life of peace and tranquility. As his sons come to visit him, he doesn't necessarily play nice or take them places. It's quite the opposite as any parent would quickly see, there is danger around every corner. Not only does Lenny jump in the car with a stranger for a quick getaway trip with his kids, but he also forgets them at school, and allows them to xerox one-thousand pieces of paper on a vulgar drawing at work. If that wasn't enough, he gives his five and seven-year-olds a bit of money and tells them to hit up the market several blocks away in the middle of Manhattan by themselves. Lenny's also not above keeping his two kids quiet for a few days straight that would land anyone in jail. Well, in fact, Lenny does end up behind bars for another reason, while his kids are somehow passed out for days on end.
With all of these terrifying parental traits, there are some hidden bright spots of love and beauty that comes to the forefront within this family. It's not immediately clear what that is, but what shines through is that Lenny does in fact love his kids, even if he puts himself first most of the time. Lenny means well, but almost always chooses the wrong path and makes bad decisions each time he's given the choice. Deep down though, Lenny and his kids survive together in the only world they know and have somehow managed to keep it on the lighter side in an ocean of gritty New York streets.
This movie is the opposite of a fairy tale where the underdog becomes triumphant with some sort of redeeming quality or epiphany. Daddy Longlegs is instead a more natural story of how an anti-hero with many issues might handle being a father. And within all these horrifying aspects of family and narcissism, the Safdie Brothers found beauty in and happiness in these characters. The performances are top-notch by the main three leads as Bronstein captures the dysfunction of Lenny perfectly. The Safdies utilize their artistic eye of New York with a heavy filmic style that looks like a movie that was made in the early '70s. Daddy Longlegs is a great intro for the Safdie Brothers into the film world and showcases their character work, amazing script-writing, and fantastic visuals of a seedy-underbelly metropolis that looks gorgeous.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Daddy Longlegs signs its custody forms over to Blu-ray via the amazing Criterion Collection. The sole Blu-ray Disc is housed inside a hard, clear plastic case. The artwork is of an animated movie from inside the movie and has an animated character looking like he's in. a drug-fueled stupor. The Criterion Booklet comes with information on the cast, crew, and movie itself along with some easter eggs.
Daddy Longlegs comes with a great and gritty-looking 1080p HD transfer from Criterion. According to the booklet, this new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution from a 35mm digital intermediate negative. The movie was shot on Super 16 and then later printed onto 35mm for its theatrical run. By doing this, the movie looks even more filmic with more grain than it might have back at its premiere.
Even though the film was made in 2008, it looks like it was actually shot in the early '70s since there is heavy grain consistent in every scene. But with these handheld camera techniques and the grittiness of it all, nothing looks polished, but rather has a more intimate and realistic feel and look. Colors are natural in their cityscape element with a ton of silvers, grays, and blues. There are some warmer colors on display in the parks with brown and green leaves, but overall, there is an icy tone to the film. City neon signs and interior lights show off more primary colors quite nicely as well. Black levels are rich and inky with this new transfer that's been handled with love. There isn't as much bleeding or murkiness in the lower-light scenes as anticipated. Skin tones are natural looking as well.
The detail fluctuates due to the style the movie is shot. With the heavy film. grain that can grow in darker scenes, it's difficult to see extreme detail in the facial pores of individual hairs. Still, there are small elements in. textures in clothing and close-ups that can be seen in good lighting or natural light during the day. Wider shots of New York look amazing as well and are never soft or pixelated. With the handheld style, the camera never slows down in its frenetic pace to allow such admiration for detail, but nevertheless, there are no issues with banding or aliasing. There were some occasional pieces of dirt and debris still, but this may be from the source and style of the shots.
This release comes with a good LPCM 2.0 stereo mix that does its job well. This is a well-balanced and chaotic dialogue-driven movie that never settles down. The ambient noises of car horns, vehicle engines revving, people talking, screaming, and walking on the street all sound great.
This mixes well with the main character's dialogue. Music and sounds from businesses also add to the frenzied audio soundscape that seems to be trapped inside skyscrapers. There is a little bit of heft with the sound effects and dialogue as well, especially when music plays out. This is a great-sounding audio track that goes hand-in-hand with its video presentation.
There are 133 minutes worth of bonus materials included here. They are mostly archival footage and previous shorts, but there is a fantastic new interview with the cast.
Daddy Longlegs is a great introduction to the pure mad genius of the Safdie Brothers. This horrifying, yet beautiful movie about an anti-hero's parenting skills is simply magnificent, raw, and unrelenting. Criterion brings the movie to Blu-ray with a great 1080p HD transfer and a good stereo 2.0 audio track. The bonus features are a lot of fun as well. Highly Recommended!