Live Free or Die Is Shit Hot Funny

lfod.jpgThere’s nothing like seeing your town on the big screen, and for many in attendance at the “Live Free Or Die” premiere tonight at the Claremont Cinema, that was the only draw. It isn’t a film for all tastes, and the old-timers sat patiently through moref F-bombs in 90 minutes than they’d probably heard in their entire lives.

All for a glimpse of Shirley’s Donut Shop – now that’s what I call dedication.

The film’s profanity certainly shocked a few people, but that’s the way a guy like fast-talking loser John “Rugged” Rudgate would operate. It’s to the credit of Greg Kavet and Andy Robin , who wrote and directed “Live Free Or Die,” that they didn’t flinch when creating him. Played perfectly by Aaron Stanford (“The Hills Have Eyes”), small-time criminal Rugged blusters with nearly every breath as he plots low-margin scams and pays his rent with ill-gotten state liquor store rebate checks. All the while, a real crime wave grows around him in a parallel universe; it’s a neighborhood Rugged will, of course, ultimately stumble into – and at just the wrong time.

Stanford’s good, but it’s Paul Schneider (“Family Stone,” “Elizabethtown”) who quietly steals scene after scene as Rugged’s reluctant sidekick, the dimwitted Lagrand. Schneider helps give the film a “Napoleon Dynamite” meets “Blood Simple” charm. It has the Coen Brothers’ sensibilities, but without the wood chipper that turned happy-go-lucky “Fargo” into Midwestern Gothic.

Contributions from top-notch character actors like Judah Friedlander (“American Splendor”), who has a memorable turn as a foul-mouthed hardware store owner, and Ultimate Fight Club wannabe Alex Gazaniga, played with equal parts stupid and sinister by Ebon Moss-Bachrach (“Mona Lisa Smile”), could well lift “Live Free or Die” from a cult sensation (it won Best Narrative at the last years SXSW) to a solid smash on a par with “Clerks” or “Garden State.” The writing’s certainly good enough, and the performances are dead-on.

I only wish Zooey Deschanel (“Elf,” “Failure to Launch”) had gotten more on-screen time as Cheryl, Lagrand’s sister and apparently the only competent adult in the fictional town of Rutland who isn’t a police officer. On that last note, there were plenty of Claremonters in Monday’s crowd chortling hard at THAT bit of dramatic license.

What I’m ultimately saying is that you should go see “Live Free or Die” when it opens in Claremont, Lebanon, Concord and Portsmouth this weekend – and not because it was filmed in Claremont, New Hampshire. Hell, I’d hate for this film to be the only reference point for people who don’t live here.

See it because it’s a shit hot funny movie.

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