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Nesting: When Growing Up feels like Selling Out?

23 July 2012  

Some couples break up. They broke in.

Nesting, written and directed by John Chuldenko is screening at the Prescott Film Festival on Friday, August 3 (9:30 am) and Saturday, August 4 (5:00 pm).

"Nesting" felt like the movie that might be made if we revisited the life of Russell Hammond (Almost Famous) in his early 30's. What happens when we move out of those spontaneous days of our teens and twenties and begin to deal with mortgages and careers and negotiating a relationship in the grown up world. Those are some of the questions that Neil and Sarah are struggling with in this delightful and thought provoking film. They both know that something is missing in their marriage. They met when she was a budding photo-journalist and he was a hipster rock and roller. They had a passionate romance that led to marriage, but now things have settled into a rut. But they struggle to even talk about it without it feeling like one of them is blaming or complaining. So they embark on a vacation to try and recapture some of what they think they've lost by retracing their steps.

Todd Grinnell and Ali Hillis give engaging performances as they seek to rekindle their relationship. With so many modern comedies I find myself asking "who are these people and why do I care what happens to them?" But I liked and cared about Neil and Sarah from their first conversation over fast food chinese food at the mall. John Chuldenko's script is intelligent and aks real questions about what it means to grow up and the trade-offs of responsibility and spontaneity. Chuldenko said, "I wanted to make a film free from cynicism, and with a lot of heart" and he succeeds with "Nesting."

When Neil buys an old Volvo like the one they drove when he and Sarah fell in love it becomes the catalyst for a journey back to their romantic roots. They visit the old neighborhood, break into their old apartment and begin to reignite the passion of their relationship. I appreciated that the circumstances that they land in and the steps they take to deal with them all made sense. There is a believability about "Nesting" that I enjoyed and that made the whole film more engaging.

The performances don't stop with Grinnell and Hillis, Chuldenko has populated this movie with a cadre of intriguing characters that I found myself wanting to know more about. Erin Chambers is especially interesting as Katie, Neil's ex who is still a tried and true friend. Kevin Linehan turns in a great performance as Neil's buddy and attorney, who is not much help, but is good for a laugh. It was also fun to see Erin Gray (the mom on "Silver Spoons" and Colonel Wilma from "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century") in a small roll.

Nesting is an excellent independent film that boasts engaging performances, excellent dialogue and a believable plot. It also has one of the most enjoyable bicycle riding montages I've seen. Usually the obligatory montage scene in most romantic comedies is a chance to slip out to refill the soda, but I enjoyed following this couple as they toured their old neighborhood on a vintage BMX bike with Laura seeming right at home on the rear pegs.

John Chuldenko sites John Hughes and Cameron Crowe as two of his filmmaking influences and you can feel it in this film. Sarah even mentions feeling like she's in a John Hughes movie at one point (eliciting a blank stare from the girl in her early 20's she's talking with). Both directors excel at creating characters that are interesting and that we can relate to at some very essential levels. They also aren't satisfied with cardboard stand-ups for their supporting characters. Chuldenko follows nicely in these footsteps in building the characters in "Nesting". There is a delightful moment towards the end of the film when we learn about an unexpected skill of one of the shirtless hunks that is just a delight.

"Nesting" is just one of the many outstanding films that you can enjoy at the Prescott Film Festival, August 1-8. For more information on individual films go to PrescottFilmFestival.com.

Ron Hammer

When Ron isn't sitting in a dark room with strangers or ranting against 3D, he also writes on his website ronhammer.net and twitter.