Instead of a midnight kiss on New Year’s Eve, Bill (Blair) unexpectedly receives a kiss-off from his girlfriend Molly (Karrasch). Thus begins Bill’s spiral of post-breakup depression, an all-consuming pity fest into which he sweeps his brother John (Merriman) and their best-bro pal Travis (Newman). Bill’s obsession with winning back Molly takes the threesome to Texas’ Gulf Coast town of Mustang Island, where Molly’s parents own a vacation home and Bill suspects she might be staying. Locating the house after much effort, they find it empty, so they break in and set up camp. Now aimless, they drift along eating and drinking. Eventually, a waitress named Lee (Eddy) catches John’s eye, and Bill tries to help his tongue-tied brother by inviting Lee to join them at a party to which they’ve just been invited. But sparks soon erupt between Bill and Lee, proving the old saw that love arrives when you’re least expecting it. Complications, of course, ensue.
Based on their award-winning short “Molly,” the Austin-based Pepper Island production company (director and co-writer Craig Elrod; cinematographer and co-writer Nathan Smith; and co-producer Michael Bartnett who, in full disclosure, is The Austin Chronicle’s digital strategist) has fleshed out their short film into a feature-length comedy. Filmed in luscious black and white, Mustang Island is a millennial comedy of manners that also doubles as a superlative acting showcase for real-life couple Macon Blair and Lee Eddy. Blair’s comically doleful countenance has been seen in such films as Green Room, Blue Ruin, and Pepper Island’s previous feature The Man From Orlando, but Eddy, a heralded mainstay of the Austin stage, needs to be given more leading film work because the unlimited expressiveness of her face and demeanor seem to be made for cinema. Merriman, as well, is a comic actor whose expression never fails to amuse, and he adds an unspoken twinkle to the proceedings whenever he’s onscreen. Mustang Island, which received a special jury prize at the Dallas International Film Festival this past spring, deserves to be seen in all 49 other states after wrapping up this week’s Austin theatrical debut.
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