The Indie Memphis Film Festival concludes today at Muvicos Peabody Place theatre, with prize-winning local documentary Nobody screening at 8:45 p.m. (See Flyer story.) But be sure to show up early for another prize-winning local film, The Importance of Being Russell, which won the festival committees own prize for excellence in filmmaking ... and screens at 6:45 p.m. tonight.
This local feature unites two known forces on the Memphis film scene, the Paradox Productions crew responsible for the ambitious feature Strange Cargo a few years ago and actor/writer John Pickle, creator and star of the cable access skit show Pickle TV. The pair previously collaborated on the short film The Last Man on Earth, but this comedic fantasy-farce is their first feature. Pickle plays redneck inventor Russell Hawker (among his many great ideas is fashioning a shotgun silencer by duct-taping a pillow over the barrel), unhappily married, professionally frustrated, and coming up on his 10th wedding anniversary.
Pickles Jim Varney-esque hick character is a confident creation who holds the screen and provokes some actual laughs. The film also boasts some good ideas, such as the neat symmetry and casual critique when Russell and his wife sit down to breakfast opposite one another and separately watch the same program on adjacent televisions. The Importance of Being Russell works well early on, finding humor in its backwoods setting without being condescending, but despite a well-staged combat scene (thats right a combat scene!), it loses its footing a little as the plot becomes more fantastical. But its handsomely shot (by Paradoxs Jeff Hassen) and well made (Sean Plemmons directs, Jeff Bryant produces) throughout. Chris Herrington