TITLE CHANGE, JAMES CAAN AND SOCIAL COMMENTS
Film Review by Fiore
Movies often go through title changes, but this one is a bit perplexing. THE GOOD NEIGHBOR is scheduled for release this coming Friday, but the title THE WAITING appears on the final screening version of the film. THE GOOD NEIGHBOR moniker makes more sense to me. It fits in the general scheme of the film’s plot quite nicely. THE WAITING is a misnomer and would be akin to naming BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN, ALIEN RESURRECTION.
Screenwriters Mark Bianculli and Jeff Richland have pieced together a decent thriller covering a few key social issues, including: domestic abuse; the overabundance of technology; pranking; dysfunctional families; poor parenting; lack of consequences for actions; the improper functioning of our current judicial system; and how a person of money and influence can manipulate that system, even if their name isn’t Clinton. That’s a lot of commentary for one movie.
Ethan Fleming (Logan Miller) and Sean Turner (Keir Gilchrist) opt to use their knowledge of sophisticated, yet commonplace technology, to run an experiment on one of their neighbors. The concept for the experiment spawned from one conducted in England. Officials there told a town they would be interacting with special agents for a selected period of time. These agents would not interfere with their lives, but rather would appear as passersbys, clerks and other folk encountered during a normal day. The townsfolk reported profound changes in their lives, one even claimed to have found God. The ruse was there were no special agents in the town. It was all a set-up.
So, Ethan and Sean opt to apply a similar scam to the grumpy old man in the neighborhood, Harold Grainey, played by James Caan. They rig his house with cameras and devices destined to convince the curmudgeon his house is haunted. The result is deadly, and there is much more to the experiment than the boys let on.
KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:
1. The visit by the police officer
2. The party
3. The unveiling of Grainey’s past.
I almost quit this film. The opening reels are shot in POV reality format. My regular readers, and you are legion, know I totally despise this type of cinematography. The one saving grace to the film’s beginning is the camera was steady and not constantly moving like the unwatchable JASON BOURNE. Then, Director Kasra Farahani time shifts the tale to the courtroom hearing of the trial. Someone is dead; but who and why? The reality footage the viewer is seeing is actually evidence in a trial. This is a very clever technique and keeps the film moving smoothly. Personally, I wish there were more cutaways to the courtroom than provided, as some stretches of evidence footage seem to go for longer than a jury would tolerate.
It is good to see Caan on the Silver Screen again. He has aged, and is now a long cry from his ROLLERBALL and KILLER ELITE days. THE GOOD NEIGHBOR does not require a lot of thespian work from him, but he is solid in the scenes that require him to hold the film together. Miller and Gilchrist are convincing as high school pranksters and reveal key foreshadowing elements to the observant viewer.
While THE GOOD NEIGHBOR is a comfortable 98-minute length, Editor Kathy Gato slows the film a tad too much just before the final reels. Stay with the movie, the conclusion is worth wading through the repetitious segments. Thankfully, Director of Photography Aleander Alexandrov does not sporadically move the camera, as in CLOVERFIELD or THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. You can watch the film without needing Dramamine. His shifting from camcorder to courtroom is transitionally smooth and effective.
Outside of the slowdown just before the conclusion, I found THE GOOD NEIGHBOR quite enjoyable. The finale provides a rather scathing, but not preachy, glimpse at the lack of moral fiber of the millennial generation. THE GOOD NEIGHBOR will have a limited theatrical release, and then be available on VOD and streaming services. Catch this one; I think you’ll enjoy it.
THE GRADE FOR THE GOOD NEIGHBOR = B