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Movie Blog @ MSPIFF, Day 1: ‘The Angels’ Share’

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Eric Henderson Eric Henderson
Eric Henderson joined the WCCO.COM web team in June 2006 and currently...
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It’s finally here! The 2013 Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival kicks off this evening at the St. Anthony Main Theater in Northeast Minneapolis.

There are approximately 200 feature films in the mix, some of which have proven to be crown jewels in a number of high-profile fests around the world like Cannes and the New York Film Festival, whereas others are making their regional or even national premieres right here in the Twin Cities. Beyond that, there are the requisite and highly diverse series of shorts showcases to keep you busy throughout the rest of April.

Throughout the entire festival, WCCO.COM’s Movie Blog will be spotlighting one particularly notable movie each day, and also suggesting a few others that might be worth your attention. So clear your schedules and get ready to go around the world in 18 days.

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Though Ken Loach won his long-overdue Palme d’Or a few years back with his sobering The Wind That Shakes the Barley, he’s not made of stone. His new Glaswegian comedy The Angel’s Share makes for a crowd-pleasing chaser to open this year’s festivities.

Robbie (Paul Brannigan) is hovering on the precipice of a life in and out of prison, and it’s debatable which of those two propositions threatens his well-being more. When a judge grants him clemency after having beaten a kid nearly to death while under the influence, perhaps taking into account the fact that Robbie’s girlfriend is about to give birth to their first child, Robbie is barely back out on the streets before he finds himself being chased down by various street thugs and thrashed mercilessly by his girlfriend’s protective uncles.

His community service officer Harry (John Henshaw) takes pity on Robbie after watching him serve as a punching bag, and treats him to a jaunt to attend a whiskey tasting. Though he never tasted the stuff before (in a plot point that somewhat stretches credulity), Robbie proves a fast study, and is soon discerning every complex flavor tone.

And not a moment too soon, because as it turns out, a cask of incredibly rare, incredibly primo sauce has been discovered, and is about to go up for auction for an expected 1 million pounds. Robbie and a few of his fellow community servicemen hatch up a plan to skim a few bottles’ worth of the liquid gold from the cask before it gets put up for bid, so that they can sell the illicit product to a particularly ruthless local connoisseur.

The Angel’s Share sometimes plays surprisingly boutique for a Ken Loach movie, but beyond the cheeky, jovial mass-appeal jokes about what kilts can do to the nether regions of those who don’t normally wear them (or, in a gag that heavily recalls Sideways, what happens to the contents of a whiskey-tasting spit bucket), there remains Loach’s signature attention to the inequities of British social structures. There isn’t much exposition on how Robbie ended up in his limited position; it’s already made evident by Loach’s ability to establish a social milieu. In one scene, Robbie very nearly manages to relocate his girlfriend and their infant son to at least give them a fresh start, and it’s both melodramatically heartbreaking and totally naturalistic to see how his plans fail.

That said, this is still a film where The Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” is needle-dropped not once, but twice. Land and Freedom it’s not, but its mix of sweet and brusque is as forceful as a snout full of straight rye.

The Angels’ Share plays at St. Anthony Main Theater at 7:30 and 7:45 p.m. Loach’s longtime screenwriting collaborator Paul Laverty will be in attendance.

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For the festival schedule, and a complete listing of all the movies being shown, click here. Ticket information is available here.

Throughout the entirety of the 2013 Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, we’ll be spotlighting one notable movie each day, along with other notable screenings. To see the WCCO Movie Blog’s complete coverage on the MSPIFF, click here.

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