Live From SXSW's Screening Room

MELVIN GOES TO DINNER

D: Bob Odenkirk; with Michael Blieden, Stephanie Courtney, Annabelle Gurwitz, Matt Price.

Narrative Feature First Films, Regional Premiere Four thirtysomethings meet for dinner. They drink, they talk, they lose track of time. We know what happens next; it occurs in film and, more importantly, in real life -- discussions lead to arguments lead to confessions. And yet, when all the revelations and the evasions are slotted just so, it can be a deeply satisfying viewing experience. So it is with Melvin Goes to Dinner, the directorial debut of Bob Odenkirk, one-half of the late and lamented HBO sketch-comedy program Mr. Show (the other half, David Cross, makes a cameo). But while Mr. Show's brilliance derived from its wacky absurdism, Melvin Goes to Dinner succeeds because it feels true-to-life. Michael Blieden adapted the film from his stage play and stars here as Melvin, the troubled title character ensnared in depression and a doomed romance. Odenkirk keeps his compositions spontaneous, even sloppy, and we see most of the characters' stories in flashback, so that despite its talky nature, Melvin Goes to Dinner never feels stagy. Winner of the SXSW Audience Award for First Film, Melvin Goes to Dinner is proof that even the most mundane conceits can be compelling when they're done right. (CC, 3/15, 8:15pm)

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