The Austin Chronicle

Austin Film Festival Review: The Big Spoon

By Jessi Cape, October 18, 2016, 1:00pm, Picture in Picture

You’re in love, you’re cohabitating, you’re sharing your life with another person, and then you realize it’s a match made nowhere near heaven. Or at least it’s no longer sustainable.

Billed as an unromantic comedy, this homegrown Austin film explores what it means to be in the death throes of love, with a quirky, light hearted touch – not as counterintuitive a combo as you’d think.

Longtime “love you like a sister” friends Mallory (Mallory Culbert) and Elise (Isabelle McNally) share a home, along with Mallory’s boyfriend Ben (Zachary Knighton), a playwright. The opening sequence – an infamous Austin airport terminal-circling pick-up scenario – sets the stage. Mallory is excited to pick up her man after months apart while he was writing at his New York City apartment, but she also finds Elise waiting for a ride with a handsome stranger, Lionel (Agustin Silva). Skip ahead to a four-person living situation rife with awkward moments that chip away at the already existing, but largely ignored, fissure between Ben and Mal until the crack becomes a chasm. Meanwhile, in sharp contrast, Elise and Lionel flitter sweetly and untethered in the sexy cuddling phase of new love.

Ben’s high-strung narcissism challenges Mallory’s budding awareness of their relationship’s problems, and the film’s perspective of the aftershock is refreshingly female. Co-written by Culbert with Carlyn Hudson, who also directed, the film’s dynamic offers an unconcluded but significant character development in Mal, though a few peculiarities remain with the others. (Elise, for example, is a mom but her son never makes an appearance – perhaps an ode to her decision-making.) Local cinematographer Drew Daniels’ interesting camera shots of the city pepper the dialogue-centric script, allowing moments of contemplation that keep the film just shy of falling squarely under one genre.

Is The Big Spoon a heartwarming sonnet? Not so much. But there’s something deeply intriguing (to the teeny tiny sadist in us all) about watching love deconstructing. Sometimes you don't even realize how much you want to be the little spoon, until you admit to being completely exhausted in the role of big spoon.

The Austin Film Festival runs Thu., Oct. 13, through Thu., Oct. 20. See for schedule and info. Follow our continuing coverage of the fest at www.austinchronicle/austin-film-festival.

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