Movie Review: “The Taiwan Oyster” at the Florida Film Festival

3starsThe scenario has the ring of familiarity — a friend dies, so a couple of mates resolve to bury him in a poetically appropriate place. It’s what happened to folk-rocker Gram Parsons, whose pals smuggled him out to Joshua Tree National Monument and cremated him there.
That legendary stunt drives “The Taiwan Oyster,” a winning road picture about hard-drinking young American ex-pats teaching English to kids in Taiwan.

Simon (Billy Harvey) is a would-be writer who longs for a magazine job, and seems on the verge of landing one.

“I feel like a minor character in someone else’s story.”

If only he could decide. On anything. If only he could stop drinking with his buds, who spike their binges with vows of loyalty and tests of drunken bravado.

Which is how one of them dies. Which is how Darin (Jeff Palmiotti) talks him into taking the body of their not-quite-friend (They barely know him) to a spot Hank Williams might approve of (the guy had named a Hank tune as his funeral dirge) and put him to rest.

They get a truck and manage to steal the body, with the help of the impulsive and fetching Nikita (Leonora Lim), an employee of the morgue. She promptly joins their quest.

And they’re off, trying to carry out the last wishes of a guy they don’t really know, bickering over how to do that all the way across Taiwan.

Mark Jarrett’s amiable road picture has a morbid whimsy and a coming-of-age hook as it follows this trio through thick and then, and captures lovely, under-filmed Taiwan at its most-attractive and charming. And the players, not yet famous, make their thinly drawn characters appealing in spite of their many obvious shortcomings.

Showings: Floridafilmfestival.com

TaiwanOyster

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