'Ceremony' is a curious film. I'm not sure it's a good movie so much as it's a decent imitation of a good movie. Written and directed by Max Winkler, 'Ceremony' feels a bit like a Wes Anderson movie that Mr. Anderson threw together in his spare time. It has the quirky feel of an Anderson flick, but it doesn't have the spirit or original pizzazz that's an Anderson trademark.
Winkler's film is about a would-be children's writer named Sam (Michael Angarano), a fast-talking, schmoozing personality who leeches off his friends. He's one of those characters that you feel like slapping every once and a while because he just won't shut up. He rattles off line after line of dialogue. Some of it funny, some of it ironic, but Winkler's pseudo-witty banter comes off more like a guy who's trying to jot down cliffnotes to 'Bottle Rocket' or 'The Royal Tennenbaums'.
Sam picks up his friend Marshall (Reece Thompson), rather Marshall picks Sam up because Sam doesn't actually have a car. Under the guise of just getting away, just the two of them, they drive up to a lake where a wedding is going on. Zoe (Uma Thurman) and Whit (Lee Pace) are getting hitched. At first it seems like Sam just wants to crash the party, drink some free booze, and get a few meals. After all that's the kind of guy Sam is. He takes and takes without giving anything back. But, we soon realize Sam isn't just there for the hors d'oeuvres he's there to win his girl back.
Sam has feelings for Zoe and Zoe I guess has feelings for Sam. That isn't made very clear. It's clear that Zoe likes Sam's writing, but not that she actually likes Sam. Who could like Sam? He's a conniving little turd who worms his way into conversations much like that annoying guy at parties who listens in on conversation until he spots a point to jump in and one-up everyone with his own story.
I'll admit that some of Winkler's film feels fresh, and some of his dialogue feels genuine. I even enjoyed Lee Pace's pompous British filmmaker character, even though he was basically the equivalent of a slightly more reserved Aldous Snow. There's just something off about 'Ceremony'. It feels too much like Winkler is copying and pasting Anderson's ideas into his own movie. Even down to the ambiguous time period look that Anderson uses in almost all his movies. 'Ceremony' has that same kind of look and feel to it.
What Winkler has here is a movie full of side characters who are much more endearing and engaging than the two leads we're supposed to care about. Sam's friend Marshall is a delight, but he's not on screen nearly enough. Zoe's drunk brother is one of the best characters of the movie, but he's relegated to just a few scenes. Most of the time we watch as Sam tries desperately to get Zoe to love him. At the same time he's trying desperately to get us to love him, but like Marshall finds out, Sam is a fraud. And it isn't easy loving a fraud like him.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Ceremony' comes to Blu-ray housed on a BD-25 Blu-ray Disc. It's framed in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is coded for region A use.
Like so many low budget movies of its ilk, 'Ceremony' looks good most of the time but only good enough to be counted as slightly above average if we're comparing it to other demo-worthy discs. Magnolia has provided a 1080p picture that wavers in quality at times, but overall is a fairly strong performance.
'Ceremony' has some nice lush colors going on. The quaint beach house with it's soft blues and whites juxtaposed with the strong reds and yellows of people's clothing gives the movie a very unique feel. Like I said, this movie does indeed feel like a Wes Anderson movie right down to the costume designs.
Blacks are never quite deep enough and harbor a bit of noise whenever the lights are turned down low. Skintones waver from natural looking to flat and pasty. Detail is good during close-ups, but mid-range photography suffers from softness. The transfer is clean and free from any dirt or gunk that might distract the viewer. There is some noticeable banding in a few scenes, but other than that technical anomalies stay away.
Altogether, a somewhat solid, but forgettable Blu-ray video presentation.
Magnolia has provided a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound mix for 'Ceremony.' The biggest problem I had with this audio presentation is that the dialogue was mixed a little too low compared to everything else going on. Especially during the party scenes, as the music becomes overbearing, drowning out the conversations.
Everything else does fine though. There's a nice ambiance going on during dinner and dance parties. Music and people laughing can be heard traveling in and out of the rear speakers just like you're at a real party. Directionality works well when people are talking out of frame.
There isn't much LFE to be had, except maybe when Whit drives his dune buggy down the beach and the engine revs. Even then it's fairly light and never really gets going. That's fine though, a talkative dramedy such as this doesn't need a whole lot of LFE to go around.
'Ceremony' is a decent film, but it feels too much like a Wes Anderson lookalike. Winkler has yet to come into his own. He's riding Anderson's coattails here and it's, at times, painfully obvious. There is something to be said about his colorful characters though and the performances he gets from his actors. The video and audio are good enough and there are more special features than I ever thought there would be. 'Ceremony' could be worth a look if it interests you.