Film Review: AARDVARK (written and directed by Brian Shoaf / World Premiere at Tribeca Film Festival)

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by Dmitry Zvonkov on April 26, 2017

in Film


In Brian Shoaf’s dramedy Aardvark, Josh (Zachary Quinto) engages Emily (Jenny Slate) to be his therapist, pays her in cash, and tells her that he has a brother named Craig who performs on a long-running TV show and is “one of the great talents of his generation.” Later, when walking through an alley, Josh encounters an old homeless woman whom, after a brief back and forth, he recognizes to be his actor brother in disguise. A little later Josh meets Craig in the form of a policeman who encourages him to steal two bicycles for a joyride. It’s clear by this point, Josh is delusional, suffering from one or several unspecified psychological disorders. And so when his brother Craig (Jon Hamm) approaches Emily one night in her driveway and asks her out to dinner we’re not sure what to think. Is Craig real? Is he Emily’s hallucination? Are both of them Josh’s? In fact this debut feature, written by Mr. Shoaf, isn’t about mental illness but loneliness. And from that perspective the fantasy of Craig serves the same function for Josh as his reality does for Emily.

Aardvark boasts fine performances, some clever bits of dialogue, and a general warmth. It’s a nice, quiet movie that doesn’t demand much investment. It also doesn’t offer a great deal in return. When Josh is walking the dark streets of his commuter town with Hannah (Sheila Vand), a pretty young woman he meets in a coffee shop but who we suspect is a product of his imagination, we see the same old Josh, no different than when he’s interacting with real people. The relationship between Craig and Emily likewise wants for satisfying details. But if one is OK with seeing schizophrenia used purely as a device to give the protagonist a reason to see and interact with people who aren’t there, and if one doesn’t have a problem with taking sentimentality over substance, Aardvark is worth a look.

photo © courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

Great Point Media in association with Slendro Media Limited
Before The Door and Susie Q Pictures
USA | 2017 | 89 min. | rated PG-13
World Premiere at Tribeca Film Festival
for screening times, visit Tribeca

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