Anything – Los Angeles Film Festival 2017
Adam reviews Anything from writer/director Timothy McNeil starring John Carroll Lynch and Matt Bomer which premiered at 2017 The Los Angeles Film Festival.
Few films released this year will so aptly and honestly deal with the nature of love and understanding than Anything, the directorial debut from Timothy McNeil. The film gives actors John Carroll Lynch and Matt Bomer the roles of their careers. This small slice-of-life film is a spiritual cousin to Hal Ashby’s Harold and Maude and Billy Wilder’s The Apartment. Like 70’s era romances, this film deals with a particular romance that many will, like some of the characters in the film, “not understand”. Like Wilder’s classic, Anything deals with romance with a subtle touch of biting humor and grace while never pushing into maudlin territory.
The film begins as Early Landry (Lynch) readies for his wife’s funeral. These almost silent moments lead to the proper beginning of the film. Brought out to California by his overprotective sister, Laurette (Maura Tierney), Early finds that California, specifically Hollywood, is the perfect place to restart. Early moves into a rundown apartment building where he soon becomes acclimated to life at the duplex and its many inhabitants. Through a series on incidents he hears through the walls of his small apartment, he meets Freda (Matt Bomer). What happens over the course of the film is a beautiful simple tale of love, acceptance and understanding.
Timothy McNeil has written and directed as strong a debut feature as has been released in the last ten years. The film’s assured and steady hand recalls not only Ashby, but Robert Altman, in his ability to show us characters in their element “being” rather than reacting. McNeil adapted the film from his play of the same name. Though the film never feels stage-bound, it does retain that theatrical intimacy that few films attempt to retain in creating an adaptation.
Lynch, a character actor primarily known for his creepier work (such as Zodiac), plays Early with a calm, silent Midwestern reverse. Early is a bright spot within a storm, trying to make things better for himself and those around him. He naturally wants to help those who are hurting, including Freda. Lynch’s silent reserve is typically played as some sort of hidden perversion. McNeil plays completely against that expectation. Early is broken, but defiantly pushes on, trying to find how to (as the song says) “mend a broken heart” (which is a refrain that plays throughout the film). The work he does in this film is nothing short of brilliant. The heartbreaking tenderness with which Lynch plays Early is quietly stunning.
Freda is a wall of sound and fury in the hands of Matt Bomer. Her quick aggressive responses show her years of distrust and misuse at the hands of others. Bomer plays Freda as though she’s been scraped across the concrete by the world, finding herself jagged and used. McNeil never succumbs to playing Freda as a visual gag or a means to an end. Rather Bomer is allowed to create a fully-realized character; she is not simply a statement to rest an ideal on.
Anything is a balancing act of humor, humanity and small intimate moments. The film carries with it a compassion and heart that is enough to melt even the most jaded of viewers if open to the experience. There is neither bombast nor flag waving in Anything. In the end, it’s about those basic human truths we all strive for and need: love, compassion, understanding and someone to stand by us no matter what. In 2017 few (if any) films will carry that message better than Anything.