Tag Archives: Julie Pope

Life’s a Stage


by Brandon Thomas

Artistic risks are hard. Conventional wisdom states that the safest artistic endeavors tend to be the most successful. This is true for movies, music, writing, and theater. Why else would we be gifted with theatrical productions of Mrs. Doubtfire or have ten Fast & Furious movies?

Michael (Joshua Koopman) is the owner of a struggling independent theater company. The theater’s go-to has always been tried-and-true classics like Romeo & Juliet or Julius Caesar, and even those aren’t getting many butts into seats. After his landlord informs him that the rent is going up, Joshua decides to call it quits with the theater. At the urging of his wife, Sarah (Julie Pope), Michael dusts off an old oddball script of his own in an effort to be more creative during the theater’s remaining weeks. When the show is a surprise hit, Michael and his staff begin looking for even odder shows to produce.

On the periphery, Earlybird seems like the kind of movie we’ve seen a thousand times before. You know, the one where the scrappy crew of lovable losers has to overcome insurmountable odds and always comes out on top. Except, that’s not exactly what Earlybird is. No, while Earlybird does contain said lovable losers, the path to “coming out on top” isn’t as predictable.

The key to Earlybird’s freshness is the lack of devotion to plot. The real conflict doesn’t come from whether or not the theater company will actually close. Instead, the drama and driving force throughout the film are the relationships between the characters. Joshua’s transition from burned out and uninspired to all-consumed and flippant takes center stage (ahem).

Koopman and Pope lead the cast with a natural and charming chemistry. Theirs is a relationship that feels lived in and supportive. As Joshua’s behavior begins to strain their relationship, writer/director Martin Kaszubowski never goes for the easy sitcom-level drama. The honesty of their predicament is all the drama Earlybird needs.

There are so many times that Earlybird feels like it’s going to play it safe. However, the cleverness of the script and the scrappiness of the overall production helps to keep the film on its toes. While a comedy, belly laughs aren’t exactly the target of the film. There’s an overall sweetness to Earlybird that shows itself early and never quite goes away. 

The film seemingly wraps up a little too nicely, but it ultimately feels earned given the strength of the previous 1 hour and 45 minutes. Sometimes a little extra sweetness at the end isn’t such a bad thing.