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Wick's Review

Created Jul 09, 2014 08:20PM PST • Edited Jun 13, 2015 10:31PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Really Great 4.5

    “God doesn’t play dice” said Einstein, but James Ward Byrkit does, entertainingly so in Coherence, one of the better low-budget SciFi movies in cinematic history. Heck, are any more more low budget than this?

    I didn’t realize how geeky the whole thing was till saying the word Coherence at the box office, but then wasn’t surprised to join a mostly male audience who were joking about the movie’s geek appeal. IOW, we were fated to be together. In a way, that presaged the movie, which takes place at a dinner party in Willow Glen, which was where I’d come from before heading to Camera 12. Spooky – in a geeky kind of way.

    The eight people who gather for the dinner party are better looking than they are likable. Several display serious levels of douchebaggery. Others are pretentious, some mildly neurotic. The movie won me over because I started caring about them as it progressed in its inexorable way. That’s magic – emotional magic.

    The inexorable story – a physics plot of sorts – starts slowly and then accelerates, bringing to mind a low-budget alternative to Edge of Tomorrow, which also accelerates as its SciFi repetition effect takes hold.

    It doesn’t help at first that the cast mostly look like near-miss moviestars. Then this becomes an advantage, because they are more interesting than most groups of middle-aged people, but we are willing to accept them for who their characters are rather than invest moviestar expectations in them.

    Coherence’s rockbottom budget means the filmmakers couldn’t hire real moviestars even if they wanted to. Hell, its FX budget would make Under the Skin’s look like Edge of Tomorrow’s. We’re talking maximum ROI for minimum FX dollar, thanks of course to an exceptionally well conceived alternate reality concept. It’s so well conceived that the execution looks easy as hell, so easy that it’s tempting to excuse them their wavering-focus hijinks. They could have done without those. But that’s the only ding the movie deserves.

    Coherence is a hell of a lot of fun. Better yet, it’s probably an order of magnitude smarter even than that.

  3. Really Great 4.5

    Emily Baldoni, née Foxler, stars as Em. Gee, how far did they have to go to get that name? Improv turns out to be how much of the dialogue came about, so it’s only fair that several of the actors named their characters after themselves. Back in real life, it’s a pity the entrancing Miss Emily doesn’t still go by Foxler, as she is a Foxler – big-screen beautiful and uncommonly smart. That’s her refracted in the poster.

    Maury Sterling plays her boyfriend, who’s got a two month work assignment in Vietnam and she doesn’t want to go with him. He’s a studly guy who had a previous relationship with Laurie (see below). Drama!

    Nicholas Brendon plays the host of the dinner party, a onetime TV star who knows he shouldn’t drink. Brendon once starred opposite Jaime Pressly in the lowbrow horror-thriller Demon Island. Really. Coherence is much better, even if it lacks hotties in bathing suits.

    Lorene Scafaria plays his sweet wife, the hostess of the party. She doesn’t know what to do when he drinks.

    Elizabeth Gracen plays a know-it-all named Beth who comes to the party packing her own pharmaceutical concoction. Don’t ask. Yes, she has striking looks. Elizabeth Ward Gracen was Miss America 1982, the year of her claimed affair with Bill Clinton. Did I mention she was Miss Arkansas prior to Miss America?

    Hugo Armstrong plays Hugh her husband, whose physicist brother told him to call if anything weird happens. Better make that call.

    Alex Manugian co-conceived the story and plays the latecomer to the party, bringing as his +1 someone’s ex-girlfriend. Jerk.

    Lauren Maher plays Laurie, +1 ex-girlfriend in a tight dress. Trouble.

  4. Male Stars Really Great 4.5
  5. Female Stars Really Great 4.5
  6. Female Costars Really Great 4.5
  7. Male Costars Really Great 4.5
  8. Really Great 4.5

    The only question is how far the cast and crew can carry it. The answer is much further than you might think, even if my head was hurting trying to fake like I was following the twists, turns and logic. It’s not unlike following why we should bankrupt our economy so elitists can feel better about climate change.

    One obvious thing: it went from a unitary reality, to binary, to trinary, to, well, not sure where it ended.

    Location Note

    The opening frame of the nearby trailer locates the movie in Willow Glen, California with associated coordinates 37°, 30’, 41" N x 121°, 87’, 22" W. The problem with that is the longitudinal coordinate includes 87’ or 87 minutes, when minutes only go up to 60. My guess is they didn’t want to point at a specific Willow Glen home. Whatever, as a longtime Willow Glen resident, I’m kinda tickled that they imagined their terrific film in my little town, er, corner of San Jose.

  9. Direction Perfect 5.0

    Director James Ward Byrkit, bravo!

  10. Play Really Great 4.5

    The cast – Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon, Elizabeth Gracen, Alex Manugian, Lauren Maher, Hugo Armstrong & Lorene Scafaria – apparently improvised much of the screenplay. Manugian and James Ward Byrkit came up with the story. Smart, very smart.

  11. Music Really Great 4.5
  12. Visuals Great 4.0

    Amazing what you can do with glow-sticks…

  13. Content
  14. Risqué 1.7

    The tension builds inexorably, which has the effect of making the movie more and more fun in a movie thriller sort of way. That they did this with low levels of edginess is to the filmmakers’ great credit.

  15. Sex Titillating 1.6
  16. Violence Fierce 1.7
  17. Rudeness Salty 1.8
  18. Surreal 2.1

    4x normal PhysioReality plus modest Circumstantial Reality liberties bring Coherence home with an admirably light level of overall Surrealism. Byrkit and Manugian deserve a few choruses of we’re not worthy for not going out on a limb while birthing this conniving thriller that really does thrill.

  19. Circumstantial Glib 1.3
  20. Biological Natural 1.0
  21. Physical Supernatural 4.0

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