Drama and Romance. Rated PG-13.
poster credit: 3, 4 Women Productions
This! movie poster
At the Birmingham 8
on Friday night, the 2011 Detroit Independent Film Festival continued
its exploration of little or soon-to-be known cinema with the
special screening of a feature with Maize and Blue at its heart:
Set in the heart of
the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campuses, Answer
This! blends a sense of infatuation with the local geography
into a plotline concerning the tension between organized and elective
forms of knowledge and expectations.
With the organized
being a graduate teaching program and overseeing parents and the
elective being the hinted-at pastime of trivia competitions, the
central character in conflict is keen to lean one way while his
renowned father the professor (portrayed by the already renowned
Ralph Williams, at least in this area) seeks the other end of
the spectrum: to pass his position of knowledge on to his son.
Paul Tarsem (whose
dilemma-influenced moods are delivered with a light snark by Christopher
Gorham) finds himself constantly nudged by Williams’ elder
Dr. Elliot Tarsem to complete his teaching dissertation for the
sake of continuing a legacy on the U-M faculty.
In being introduced
to a love interest freshman named Naomi (Arielle Kebbel) whose
campus ambitions are leaned toward social endeavors in terms of
experience (and whose revelation as to why might help Paul find
himself), he’s instead inspired to enlist a friend and a
fellow bar patron (respectfully played by Nelson Franklin and
Evan Jones) to use trivia as a new means of moving forward personal
Here is where the character
runs into a brick wall: Paul’s hope to maintain a sense
of simplicity hampers not only his motivation to establish a flow
of thought into what can be handed in to the reviewing board,
but also pose a threat to the confidence of handing in the right
answers to the trivia MC (here given a suggestfully burned-out
sarcasm by Chris Parnell).
is the still rampant fear of not being on the sound path to adulthood
and looks to childhood fascinations like the Bible and Trivial
Pursuit to find a proper basis in explaining his standpoint to
school officials and students alike. The question, however, is
which area of stature will he finally give in to?
In a way, Paul echoes
the behavior displayed by the major characters in the 1960's classic
Georgy Girl (mentioned here because, yes, it is the subject
of a question during the trivia scenes). Those latter characters
also attempted to display a type of childish joy in their activities
and dialogue regardless of what they faced.
Here, that sense of
indifferent excitement and at times juvenile spat give Paul the
will to make a decision without being entirely “So F’
off!” about it. With the last fadeout, he delivers the lingering
hope that although any of his friends or relatives will be disappointed,
the chance of resolution and acceptance is standing outside the
What the doors open
and close to is just a representation of where each person will
be whether or not it’s where they want to be. Though to
specify here would be one spoiler too many.
The film opens up to
the audience with a Manhattan-like collage of landmarks that define
the Ann Arbor campuses today (of which Woody Allen, coincidentially
or not, is part of), and director Chris Farah takes the exploration
of these areas to intimate levels by using them to entice closer
feelings between Paul and Naomi based on how alike they are. Their
recognition of such concrete surroundings makes the setting a
more permitted witness to their relation (the same also applies
to those areas’ maintenance, as one fantastic moment of
However, the characters
in support still aim to create a lasting power in this atmosphere.
Both Franklin and Jones play off the opposites kind of attract
gag successfully with more laughable horror than expected, while
Ralph Williams’ eccentricities signify the latest example
of a character who’s literally the performer and can get
away with it.
The block M is shamelessly
stamped over this film, yet Farah manages to avoid the patriotism
of fight songs and frequent campus slogans by underwriting the
message of being able to choose where one can go and on which
side one can stand. In doing so, it feels like Farah refreshed
the American Pie formula of showing humorous rite of
passage desperation through sentimentality and a restraint on
over-the-top gross-out moments.
With such homage to
heartfelt comedy, the question is this: is this the biggest Michigan
shout-out to come out this year? One would have a while for the
"Answer This" won seven awards including Best Michigan
Feature at the 2nd Annual Michigan Film Awards on March 12.
This!' to be screened during the Detroit Independent Film Festival
Ralph Williams is one of the stars of "Answer This!"
Director Chris Farah is pictured on right.