Cinema Review: Wild Canaries | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Tuesday, March 31st, 2020  

Wild Canaries

Studio: Sundance Selects
Directed by Lawrence Michael Levine

Feb 24, 2015 Web Exclusive
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The basic premise of Wild Canaries is similar enough to Woody Allen’s Manhattan Murder Mystery that if it’s not explicitly an adaptationI have yet to see this reference in any promotional materialit was certainly a prime influence on writer/director/star Lawrence Michael Levine. A young Brooklyn couple’s relationship is tested when their elderly neighbor dies and BarriLevine’s female counterpart played by his real-life wife Sophia Takalsuspects foul play. Unlike Allen’s constrained treatment - setting all of the action inside an apartment building - Wild Canaries is decidedly energetic in it’s nearly slapstick sense of humor. From the onset of Barri’s obsession she takes to wearing an ill fitting rain hat and trench coat as she sneaks around, breaking and entering and tailing her neighbors, looking ridiculous and adorable in her hunt for clues. Like Allen, Levine’s appeal as Noah is in his furrowed brow. But despite his self-serious point of view, as his fiancée’s investigation progresses he also begins to look more and more ridiculous, first strapped into a neck brace and eventually donning a pretty nasty black eye.

In their roles as Woody Allen and Diane Keaton stand-ins, Levine and Takal are a formidable, brainy and bickering and drawn to each other because of their faults. But it’s Alia Shakawat as Jean, the couple’s powerhouse lesbian roommate, who really shines. Her connection with Barri is more tangible than anything between Barri and Noah. And her subdued bossiness is the most sophisticated brand of humor in the film. In fact, Shakawat is so engaging that her longing to steal Barri away from Noah is a more appealing outcome than the traditional, hetero happily ever after.

It doesn’t help that the couple’s petty back-and-forth becomes so tiresome that threat of their breakup seems a welcome respite, especially because neither of them seem to get much out of the relationship. But just when the interpersonal drama threatens to derail any hope of plot advancement, the elements of suspense kick up a notch. Culminating in a classic shoot-out that is equally tense as it is absurd, Wild Canaries flirts with becoming a harder, more somber film but ultimately wraps up with a wink - everyone paired off and it’s a welcome relief. Like much of Woody Allen’s mid-career work, it’s a light romantic comedy handled with aplomb.

Author rating: 7.5/10

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