AFF: 'New Low'

Can a total zero have star quality?

AFF: 'New Low'

Can a total zero have star quality?

We don’t mean to be unkind, but Wendell (played by New Low writer/director Adam Bowers) has very few redeeming qualities. And he’s the first to admit it. Vaguely employed at a video store (with real VHS tapes!) in Gainesville, Florida, he’s a mooch and a weakling in body and mind; so allergic to conflict is he, he convinces his best friend into breaking up with his one night stand while she’s still in the shower.

Wendell stumbles into a relationship with bartender Vicky (Jayme Ratzer), who’s just as directionless and dyspeptic as he is – a perfect match, you’d think. But suddenly Wendell develops ambition – for, one suspects, the first time in his life. That ambition? To be a better person. Well, sort of. Mostly, he just wants to date a better person – a do-gooder named Joanna (Valerie Jones) – and have it kind of rub off on him.

Bowers is a string bean with a delivery so laid-back he seems ever on the verge of curling up for a nap, but it works beautifully for him, and his movie, which is genuinely funny. (He’s an Onion contributor, as well as an L.A.-based UCB troupe member.) He’s unafraid to go low, lower, lowest with his enjoyably jerky character, and it’s a nice change of pace. New Low isn’t about transformations, but rather, accepting one’s limitations, and within its own limited, super-low-budget scope, it’s a raggedy charmer. College town Gainesville feels a kissing cousin to Austin circa Slacker-era, lightly updated to accommodate communal gardening and Heelys, and DP Ryan Moulton (a University of Florida grad, along with Bowers) makes the most of the grubby post-grad milieu and its small-town Southern woodsiness.

New Low screens Friday, Oct. 23, 12:30pm at the Alamo Ritz and Tuesday, Oct. 26, 7:30pm at the Alamo Lake Creek.

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Austin Film Festival, New Low, Adam Bowers

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