Thursday, June 15, 2017

Review: "Shimmer Lake" tests the reverse storytelling technique

Shimmer Lake Review
Telling a story in reverse can be a fun exercise, but like many devices in the history of film its only as strong as the person who crafts it. "Memento" is quickly becoming one of the finest motion pictures that I've ever had the pleasure to see. Its the my favorite film of the 2000's, my favorite film of the 21st Century so far and easily becoming one of my favorite films of all time. That film tells its story in reverse, starting from a point where we believe a man got his revenge on the criminal who raped and murdered his wife. As the film dials back in history though, we aren't so sure of the film's hero. "Irreversible" while extremely difficult to re-watch, shows us a film that begins in terrible darkness, then dials back into overwhelming positive light. Showing us that we are completely powerless to stop the events that behold our future. Both films are the two finest examples of reverse storytelling that I can name.

"Shimmer Lake" is the latest film I've personally seen to tackle the reverse storytelling. It tells the story of a bank robbery that goes terribly wrong. The film moves in reverse, moving over the course of a week. We see a local sheriff (Benjamin Walker) beginning his investigation of the bad robbery, as it has left dead bodies. Little does he know his brother Andy (Rainn Wilson) is hiding in his basement, he is a suspect in the robbery. As the film slowly begins to unfold, we trace back through the week and discover who is responsible for the heist and how they got involved. We also soon begin to see how it spiraled out of control and became about something else entirely.

I give any filmmaker credit tackling a device that is by and large, hard to use. By the end of the film, I am not sure if "Shimmer Lake" has the same impact as either "Memento" or "Irreversible," but its a fun ride for the most part. The film benefits from having a mesmerizing cast all doing good work. What's extra exciting is the cast of characters going so far out of their comfort zones. Ron Livingston, Rob Corddry, John Michael Higgins, Adam Pally...these are all actors who normally specialize in comedy. They got careers that were defined by their comedy. Now, "Shimmer Lake" had a few scenes that made me laugh out loud. But its mostly a mystery-drama-thriller. The laughs in this film are mostly jetblack. Its amazing watching these guys tackle some fairly stark material and do such a good job doing it.

The film itself sets up a fun little mystery game that proved fun to play. Like I said, it didn't have a big impact on me. Mostly because if it were told in chronological order, it would have been just a mediocre little crime movie. Most reverse storytelling films begin with a big question, and eventually move back to give that big question an answer. I don't know how well "Shimmer Lake" pulls that off, its ultimately a mixed bag. Its fun to play, I just don't feel compelled to ever watch this one again. Even though I know what happens, "Memento" is such an intoxicating experience that I have to see it at least once a year. I don't know if I'd go back for seconds on this one. Its just kind of ordinary and familiar. The device used in the movie does not elevate the material at hand.

But for what its worth, its a valiant effort and definitely worth catching on Netflix. I don't know what happened to Rainn Wilson, but it was a pleasure seeing him in this. The whole cast is on top of things here. And there is a fun game to play here, but it just lacks any forward momentum and juice.


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