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Arts and Entertainment

Movie Review: Spiral

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Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment

Joel David Moore is one of those character actors whose name you can never place but whose face you recognize instantly. He often works in broad comedies (Dodgeball, Grandma's Boy) and--let's be honest--his characters are usually not the sharpest tools in the shed. Given all that, I was surprised by the radical and dark departure taken in his latest film, Spiral, in which Moore not only acts, but co-writes, co-directs and produces. It's a thriller in the classic sense--more Rear Window than Untraceable--and relies heavily on a tightening, claustrophobic mood for its suspense. Some might find it slow; I found it refreshing.

Moore plays Mason, a decided loner working as a telemarketer in your typical, faceless corporate office. The only friend he seems to have there is his callow boss Berkeley (Zachary Levi) with whom he shares an inexplicable bond. They're a strange match: Mason is barely socially coherent while Berkeley is a suave, misogynist shark. Of course, everything changes one day when the pathologically ebullient Amber (Amber Tamblyn) curiously decides to befriend Mason while he's sifting through another lonely lunch. He's naturally defensive at first, but eventually she finds a way to burrow into his life and soon they are friends.

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Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment

Given that setup, most movies would follow a predictable formula: shy loner finally meets girl who likes him and through the healing power of love actually becomes a complete, loving person himself. Spiral is not most movies. Even as Amber further insinuates herself into his life, Mason still finds ways to resist her. Sure, he paints her portrait (often!) and shows her his jazz collection, but he also pops off in angry outbursts and refuses to talk to her about certain aspects of his life. Even as they grow closer, they remain firmly apart and Mason remains demonstrably anti-social. So where does this relationship go?

Ah, you will have to see the movie to find that out, gentle reader, because I'm no spoiler! What I will say is that the film--which relies almost exclusively on character development at first--becomes very plot-driven in its last third. Mason's relationship with Amber, Mason's friendship with Berkeley--all come under assault as the film builds towards its finale. It's so hard to talk about a film that depends on a twisty narrative without giving something crucial away so I'll only say that a conclusion is not always a conclusion and the real and imaginary can easily be confused. If you like watching movies that keep you puzzled, Spiral might be one for you.

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Photo courtesy of David Muller Photography

I recently had a chance to speak with four of the creative talents behind Spiral: Jeremy Boreing, Joel David Moore, Zach Levi and Adam Green. I apologize for not transcribing the interview, but there were so many voices and cross-talk going on that I never would have been able to figure everything out. Below, you can find excerpts from what turned out to be a very long conversation. Also, director Adam Green, actors Amber Tamblyn and Tricia Helfer, writer/producer Jeremy Danial Boreing, and DP Will Barrett will be on hand for a Q&A immediately following Friday's 7:45 PM screening at Laemmle’s Sunset 5.

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