Remember the first time you saw Napoleon Dynamite? You loved it, right? But try to tell people about the story of an oddball teenage boy who lives with his grandmother, brother Kipp and a llama and it just doesn’t do the movie justice. The characters were so wonderful, you just wanted to see what they were going to do next. Its one of those movies you just have to see…you just have to go with it and know that in the end there is a payoff.
Lovely By Surprise is one of those movies. The non-linear stories of Marian, Mimi, Bob, Jackson, and the two brothers, Humkin and Mopekey might be hard to describe, but the characters are so interesting that you just have to watch them to see what they are going to do next.
As a writer at heart, I was intrigued by the quirky and unique story of a novelist who has writer’s block. But the visually stunning Lovely By Surprise is much, much more. Prepare yourself for a strange and lovely journey.
The story begins with novelist Marian Walker (played by Carrie Preston) who is experiencing some problems getting over a bump in her first novel about two brothers living alone on a boat located in a barren field. It would be hard to explain the strange and fanciful story of the wise and gentle Humkin and his wacky brother Mopekey. But if you just go with it, you will see why the movie is called lovely–by surprise.
To get over her writer’s block, Marian asks for advice from Jackson, her mentor and ex-lover. Austin Pendleton (Catch 22, What’s Up Doc, A Beautiful Mind, My Cousin Vinny, The Muppet Movie) is wonderful in the role. But Marian is troubled by this advice to kill Humkin, her favorite character. It triggers an emotional response and brings up some unresolved issues from her past.
Unwilling to be killed off, Humkin escapes the landlocked boat and the pages of Marian’s novel and shows up in Mirian’s past, at the car dealership where her father, Bob Walker works. Bob is wonderfully played by Reg Rogers (Igby Goes Down, I Shot Andy Warhol, Analyze That, Primal Fear). Poor Bob is recently widowed and the father of Mimi (Marian), who refuses to speak after the death of her mother. Bob is the complete opposite of the high pressure car salesman. In fact, he actually talks people out of buying a car. I enjoyed his scenes so much, I watch them twice. His performance is a very fine balance between sadness and comedy.
Bob is on the verge of losing his job when a scantily-clad Humkin arrives on the car lot looking for free hot dogs. (Again, I ask you to go along with the story). What a guy to do? He takes Humkin on a test drive and buys him a hot dog.
So now the lines between fantasy and reality are really crossed and if I tell you much more, I run the risk of ruining the surprise. The past and the present, fiction or reality? Who can say? But writer/director Kirt Gunn gives us an interesting, although enigmatic movie with a wonderful array of likable characters.
Have you seen Lovely By Surprise? If so, what did you think of it?