Logline: Brooklyn couple suspects foul play when their rent controlled neighbor suddenly drops dead.
Writer/Director Lawrence Michael Levine’s Wild Canaries is a departure from Gabi on the Roof in July, his previous film, but the environmental elements remain the same. This is a murder mystery set against the backdrop of hyper-literate Brooklynites with commitment issues.
When an old lady upstairs dies and her son (Kevin Corrigan) starts acting suspicious, that’s all Noah (Levine) and Barri (Sophia Takal) need to become a boho version of The Thin Man‘s Nick and Nora Charles. Unemployment and a recent Hitchcock retrospective also light the fire to make Noah and Barri into ametuer detectives….or their idea of what that would be. Gossip becomes addictive between our two leads and the cast of characters- which includes the pining lesbian roommate Jean (Alia Shawkat) and Noah’s ex-girlfriend/boss Eleanor (Annie Parisse)- adds sexual tension to the stew. Also in the mix is Noah’s shifty landlord Damien (Jason Ritter) whose crazy behavior makes him a suspect- or possibly just an “authentic” New Yorker. Among the supporting cast, Shawkat stands out in a performance that effectively communicates both yearning and smarminess.
It is worth noting that Levine and Takal are married in real life and their affection for the rhythms of conversation and the specificity of the obsessions of the characters distinguish Wild Canaries from what could be initially dismissed as a variation on Manhattan Murder Mystery. What the characters are doing might seem familiar, but there is just enough affection for the past (old gumshoe sound cues!) and the new that the mixture seems fresh and exciting.
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