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Michael Angarano Makes An Assured Directorial Debut With “Avenues”

Michael Angarano is an underrated actor. Performances in films like The Art of Getting By, Ceremony, In a Relationship, and Red State showcase this. A few years ago, he also wrote and directed a project which he also starred in. That project, Avenues, played a film festival or two, but never came out. This week, it finally does, and it is well worth the wait. Angarano gives one of his best performances to date, while also showcasing some admirable filmmaking chops. It all builds to a low key little gem of a movie. You’ll have to search this one out, but it’s well worth the trouble. Angarano has got the goods.

The movie is a dramedy taking place over more or less a single day. The day is the birthday of Max (Angarano), an underachieving writer dealing, or more aptly, not dealing, with the recent suicide of his brother. Max’s best friend Peter (Nicholas Braun) has come down from Canada to check on him and help him celebrate the big deal. They spend some time wandering Manhattan and its winter streets, having amusing yet deep conversations. They also run into two women while eating dinner and strike up a bond. Brooke (Ari Graynor) and Halley (Adelaide Clemens) end up joining in on the festivities, though all is not well. Peter has a failing relationship back home that’s on his mind, while Max isn’t properly mourning his brother, something highlighted during interactions with his ex Katie (Juno Temple), as well as with his sister (Maya Kazan). Angarano writes and directs, with supporting players here including Brian Geraghty, John Robinson, and Greg Vrotsos. Cinematography is by Jonah Quickmire Pettigrew, while the score is composed by the actor Michael Cera, in an interesting little side note.

Michael Angarano stars as well as writes and directs this charming New York tale, and he does so with aplomb. His work in front of and behind the camera is both compelling and steady. It’s an assured debut. He has a real sense of place within New York City. This film has the feel of something akin to a Woody Allen or Edward Burns picture. It’s talky and light on plot, but there’s a charm and sense of purpose on display. There’s a build towards a quiet ending, one that’s simple, yet undeniably moving. It’s not without its faults, as sometimes the chatter isn’t quite as deep as Angarano hopes, while the supporting actresses aren’t given a real end to their story, but these are small issues.

Avenues really succeeds due to its cast. In addition to his own turn, Angarano cast the flick brilliantly. Nicholas Braun previously has worked with him in underrated projects like Kevin Smith’s aforementioned Red State, giving them a nice chemistry. Both Adelaide Clemens and Ari Graynor are tremendous, making you always want more of them. Juno Temple is heartbreaking in her one scene, while Maya Kazan is great as well, suggesting she needs to work more. They all have a nice rapport with each other, making the interactions feel real. When a story is as simple and quiet as this one is, you need that believable banter.

Starting this week, audiences can finally see Avenues, which did not deserve to sit on the shelf for years. That sort of situation is always a shame, and especially so here. It’s an accomplished film by Angarano, who deserves another opportunity to make a movie. Not only does it showcase his ability to write and direct, it’s simply one of his best performances to date. You’ll have to make an effort in order to seek this one out, but you really should. The entire cast is terrific, helping to elevate Angarano’s vision. Give this one a shot. Trust me when I say that you won’t regret it one bit…

Be sure to check out Avenues!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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