There’s nothing like seeing your town on the big screen, and for many in attendance at the “Live Free Or Die” premiere Monday night at the Claremont Cinema, that was the main draw. It isn’t for all tastes; there are more F-bombs in the film’s 90 minutes than a lot of the audience had probably heard their entire lives.
But seeing Shirley’s Donut Shop and Lambert Supply on the big screen made it all worthwhile.
The film’s profanity may be shocking, but that’s the way a real guy like fast-talking loser John “Rugged” Rudgate would operate. To their credit, co-directors (and former “Seinfeld” writers) Greg Kavet and Andy Robin didn’t flinch when creating him, and Aaron Stanford’s star turn as Rugged is, to use the character’s favorite phrase, “shit hot.”
The small-time criminal blusters with every breath, plotting low-margin scams and paying his rent with ill-gotten rebate checks. All the while, a real crime wave grows around him in a seemingly parallel universe; it’s a neighborhood that Rugged will, of course, ultimately stumble into – and at just the wrong time.
Stanford’s good, but Paul Schneider (”Family Stone,” “Elizabethtown”) is even better, quietly stealing scene after scene as Lagrand, Rugged’s dimwitted sidekick. With each toss of his hair, Schneider gives 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 Lagrand’s sister Cheryl. She’s apparently the only competent adult who isn’t a police officer in the fictional town of Rutland, New Hampshire (Rutland? THAT bit of dramatic license sure drew some chortles Monday night).
What I’m ultimately saying is that you should go see “Live Free or Die” when it opens tomorrow – not just because it was filmed in Claremont.
See it because it’s a shit hot funny movie. Now, what else is going on this weekend?
Thursday: Jason Cann, Brown’s Tavern – Sadly, this in-demand singer/guitarist’s busy schedule precluded him from playing a farewell set at Claremont’s Bistro Nouveau. He’ll be performing at the new locations in Springfield and Eastman later in the month. Jason’s built quite an Ascutney following with his easy on the ears catalog of songs that include the Dead, Dave Matthews and Dan Loggins.
Friday: Roland Yamaguchi Band, Sophie & Zeke’s – The music lineup at downtown Claremont’s favorite dinner spot changes a bit in the coming weeks. Tonight, it’s a reconfigured New Kind of Blue, sans vocalist Emily Lanier. There are some new faces in April, including upcoming Thursday dinner sets from the Norm Wolfe/Peter Concilio duo, and Draa Hobbs with sax player Michael Zsoldos.
Saturday: George’s Back Pocket, Boccelli’s on the Canal – Listening to Rutland singer/guitarist George “G.V.” Nostrand’s music on his web site, I’m reminded of bluegrass skiffle bands like Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks or Asleep at the Wheel. Nostrand played and recorded a well-received set at the Windham before it closed last year. Tonight, he’s at Bellows Falls’ newest music venue.
Sunday: Green Mountain Shuffle, Middle Earth Music Hall – Since we’re discussing indie films, it’s worth mentioning the first movie from Vermont musician and writer Michael T. Hahn, which gets a 2 PM screening today. Starring Heather Fitch, Adam Desautels and Derek Campbell, “Green Mountain Shuffle” is described as “an unforgettable tale of passion, deceit and redemption.” It also features performances by Hahn’s eponymous band.
Tuesday: Taylor Hicks/Toby Lightman, Avalon (Boston) – As the current “American Idol” circus lurches through another season, last year’s winner proves there’s no guarantee of success beyond the title. He’s no Carrie Underwood in the record sales department, and the Avalon isn’t the EnormoDome either. The best thing about this show is Toby Lightman, the Philly chanteuse who could have been an Idol if she’d wanted to.
Wednesday: Lunasa, Chandler Music Hall – Randolph, Vermont’s jewel of an opera house was born from, of all things, a church merger in 1907. Renovated in the 1970s, it’s hosted both local and international talent. Tonight, it’s a fine Celtic band, rich in tradition but with state of the art playing skills. It features members of the Waterboys, Donal Lunny’s Coolfin and the Riverdance band.