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    Fort Tilden (2015): Movie Review

    “A sour yet funny exercise on having compassion.” 

    Two self-obsessed and abrasive gal pals are out for a comedy odyssey in Fort Tilden, the debut feature co-written and co-directed by Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers. Featuring twenty-something New Yorkers who are still in their extended adolescence, this character-driven film is a self-reflective analysis of who we are as a person and the kind of live we are living.

    On a whim, roommates Harper (Bridey Elliott) and Allie (Clare McNulty) decide to take a break from doing nothing and travel from their Williamsburg apartment to the beach at Fort Tilden. A self-confessed “mixed-medias” artist who is not actually interested in her craft, Harper is the privileged, spoiled child who is content to feed off his businessman father’s largesse. Meanwhile, Allie plans to fly to Liberia with the Peace Corps for two years and after which, study law or acupuncture or something.

    Mounting some borrowed fixed-gear bikes, the duo begin their journey towards Fort Tilden where they plan to meet up with cute guys, Russ (Jeffrey Scaperrotta) and Sam (Griffin Newman), who they chatted with at a rooftop concert the night before. But before that, Harper sets up the apartment for a possible after-beach sex.

    But it won’t be an easy trip. Broke, Harper keeps writing checks she hopes will not be cashed quickly. Calling in sick to cancel an important appointment with the Peace Corps, Allie keeps avoiding phone calls from her placement officer. Together, they hurdle various episodes in their trip like buying a $200 barrel, scoring some molly, get lost or stranded in a “ghetto,” go shopping at a discount store, lose their bikes, ride an unlicensed cab ride, care for a litter of abandoned kittens, and swim in freezing water.

    With its simplistic plot and meager cast, Fort Tilden is a brisk, breezy and mean comedy. It is an engaging film because of its sharply drawn characters, almost transparent that we can see every nuance of their thoughts and emotions. Sadly, they are very annoying, narrow-minded and shallow, far from being role models. They are silly enough to ditch their responsibilities for a beach time and hopes of getting laid. Allie, the less unlikable character, takes pride with her Peace Corps association but being unable to navigate in the streets of New York, there is a big question of the likelihood of her survival in war-torn Liberia. As much as she just tags along Harper, she is pushed around by everything that happens. Harper, the more stubborn one, seems to look at herself higher than everyone else. She is the typical mean girl, mocking other people for their sincere efforts and persuasions. But when she finds herself at the center of jokes, she becomes defensive and impatient.

    Their journey together has become a test of their character, as their insecurity and confusion becomes more apparent. Like their wasted $200 barrel or the expensive cab ride, they are simply narcissistic, showy and pretentious. It is evident in how Harper rolls her eyes at other people and how Allie is fond of giving fake compliments with fake smiles. As much as they are lost in the streets, they are also unsure of what they want with their lives. And when they explode off against each other, it is a moment of truthfulness and kindness. As much as they are able to give pity to the kittens, they are also capable of empathy and affection for each other.

    Technically, the film is decently edited, scored and photographed. There is not a dull moment as the two characters, with all their flaws and imperfections, are intriguing and watchable. Elliot and McNulty also have good rapport and delivery.

    Despite its unlikable characters, Fort Tilden is an enjoyable film to watch. It is not because of how the two leads stupidly stare and argue while a kid steals their bike. It is not because of how a store owner puts ice on hot coffee with her bare hands to make them “iced coffee” for the two heroines. And it is not also because of the topless scene in the end, where a quarter of girls let their bare breasts hang loose at the beach. But it is because of how the two main characters, without realizing it, develop some kind of compassion and humanity.


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