Tag Archives: Daniel Zolghadri

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Nerd

Funny Pages

by George Wolf

It’s Christmas Day, and the one place Robert (Daniel Zolghadri) finds his comfort and joy is the comic book store.

And though the feature debut from writer/director Owen Kline may instantly earn a place alongside American Splendor, Ghost World and Crumb on the comic nerd movies Mt. Rushmore, a love for the funnies isn’t required for Funny Pages to cast its wild, weird spell.

Through massive bites of hamburger at a local New Jersey diner, Robert informs his parents (Maria Dizzia and Josh Pais, both perfectly exasperated) that he won’t be finishing his senior year of high school.

All Robert cares about is drawing comics, and he can work any boring job while he pursues his artistic dreams, so why not get right to it?

So he does, renting half a sweltering room in Trenton and working a few hours for Cheryl (Marcia DeBonis), a public defender with a list of several clients. And as luck would have it, one of those clients, Wallace (Matthew Maher), used to work for the famous Image Comics.

Sure, Wallace is angry, aggressive and openly hostile, but knowing him puts Robert one step closer to where he wants to be. And that means Robert wants to stay close to Wallace, whatever the consequences.

And there are plenty of awkward, often hilarious consequences.

Kline (son of Pheobe Cates and Kevin) develops memorably offbeat characters you don’t let go of easily. Zolghadri brings a wonderful zest to Robert’s coming-of-age, showcasing a sweetly resonant mix of resolve, confidence and vulnerability.

And from Wallace to roommates, from co-workers to best friends, there’s a universe of weirdos populating Robert’s journey up from square zero. Kline envelopes you in so many layers of nerdery that the film races past disbelief and circles back, crashing cars and dropping pants with a surprisingly lived-in abandon.

In the early moments of Funny Pages, Robert’s enthusiastic art teacher proclaims that his art should “always subvert!” That sounds like something Kline might have been told some time ago.

I’d say he was paying attention.

Snitches Get Stitches

Low Tide

by George Wolf

If you’ve been waiting for the perfect time to pitch your idea of re-making The Town as a coming of age drama, too late.

Writer/director Kevin McMullin beat ya to it with his first feature Low Tide, a nifty debut that leans on plenty of heist tropes cleverly downsized for teenage conspirators.

Alan (Keean Johnson) and Peter (IT‘s Jaeden Martell) are New Jersey brothers with roots in the fishing district. Mom has passed on so while Dad’s away working a boat, Alan breaks into houses with his goofy friend Smitty (Daniel Zolghadri from Eighth Grade) and scary pal Red (Alex Neustaedter).

The gang ropes young Peter in for his first job as lookout, but somebody snitched. Sergeant Kent (the always reliable Shea Wigham) gives chase just as they’re leaving the latest B&E, and not everyone gets away.

Not everyone knows about the very valuable score some of the boys found in that house, either, which leads to plenty of suspicion among thieves.

Plus, one honest to goodness buried treasure.

McMullin blends his genres well, creating an ambiguous time stamp that can resonate with various demographics, and indulging in some noir fun without collapsing into full Bugsy Malone territory.

We’ve been watching the talented Martell grow up since his St.Vincent breakout five years ago, and his thoughtful turn as the smart, cautious Peter shows his transition into adult roles should be a smooth one. The kid’s just a natural.

And it’s not just Martell. There’s not a weak link in this ensemble, giving McMullin plenty of room to pursue his vision with inspired confidence.

If you’ve seen even a few heist dramas, the only things that may surprise you are the age of these bandits and how little you fault the film for its familiarity.

Attempting to define the moment when a young life chooses the path it will follow is not exactly a new idea. By wrapping his teen characters in recognizably adult archetypes, McMullin keeps the drama just a hair off-kilter, rewarding our continued investment.

As Sergeant Kent tells one of the boys, “This is your origin story. You gonna be the good guy, or the bad guy?”

Low Tide makes it fun finding out.