The thing about crowd-pleasers at film festivals … after a few of them, they start to all seem as though they’re operating from the exact same playbook. You can anticipate the emotional beats with no effort, and the end result often flatters certain tastes just as baldly as, say, Transformers.
There’s nothing all that wrong with Israeli import Restoration, per se. It’s been anointed (or at least chosen for consideration) by Sundance and Toronto and it doesn’t take much effort to see why. It’s a solidly-made but unassuming little movie about an old school man fighting a certain kind of obsolescence.
Sasson Gabai plays Yaakov Fidelman, a packrat who has made a life for himself restoring old furniture and, in his own defeated way, making a futile attempt to rage against the dying of the light. After Yaakov’s business partner dies, he wonders if he can shore up his own dwindling verve to stay in business. His son Noah, still young enough to switch gears, thinks it would be better for Yaakov to sell out and make way for condos.
Gee, I just can’t imagine why festival audiences mightn’t feel a certain level of recognition and self-congratulation in it. Swap out “antique furniture” for “movies presented in analog, 35mm format, free of 3-D manipulation and interchangeable superheroes” and that pretty well spells it out. Yaakov’s sexy new apprentice threatens to reignite Yaakov’s mojo (not to mention Noah’s pregnant wife), making him an easy point-of-entry for younger cinephiles still carrying the torch for that old romanticism.
All condescension aside, Restoration‘s plot is a little knottier (pun intended) than I’m giving it credit for having, and Gabai’s performance is filled with resonant ornaments (oh, I did it again). It both embodies and argues on behalf of middlebrow resilience, which it also unfortunately overvalues.
Restoration plays in Theater 2 at 4:45 p.m.
Other Highlights: Wednesday, April 25
I Am Not A Hipster. And I am not a movie critic. (Theater 3; 7:20 p.m.)
Vinylmania. But I am a hipster. (Theater 4; 7:45 p.m.)
The Good Life. The intersection of old glamour and new decay makes this in-comp doc looks on paper a little bit like Denmark’s own Grey Gardens. A staunch must-see. (Theater 3; 9:15 p.m.)
For more of the WCCO Movie Blog’s coverage on the MSPIFF, click here.