Movie Review: “Beside Still Waters”


Still waters may run deep, as the old saying goes. But “Beside Still Waters” there’s nothing deeper than “The Big Chill.”
Yes, it’s another knockoff of “Chill” and “Return of the Secaucus Seven”, another gathering of young “old friends” at a remote summer house or in this case, lake cabin, where old feelings are stirred up and old yearnings given in to thanks to opportunity and alcohol.
Co-writer/director Chris Lowell’s excuse for plopping eight late 20somethings in remote, woody Michigan, is the death of Daniel’s parents.
Ryan Eggold (TV’s “The Black List”) is Daniel. He’s grieving, but he’s over the whole condolences thing. They died in a car wreck near the cabin, an accident he won’t talk about. So he’s loaded the bar with booze and invited all the childhood friends who did not make it to the funeral for “a moving out party” in his parents’ honor.
There’s boisterous practical joker Tom (Beck Bennett), who is newly-laid-off, and James (Brett Dalton of “Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.” ), an actor who gave up the struggles of the stage for cheesy a reality TV show. Abby (Erin Darke) and Martin (Will Brill) are married, but his unemployment has ruined their sex lives.
Charlie (Jessy Hodges) is a free spirit who has a romantic history with most everybody there.
And of course, Daniel’s willowy ex Olivia (Britt Lower) shows up with her new fiance (Reid Scott) who is, by the formula in play here, the “straight-laced one.”
They drink, play cards, drink, do the silliest coed drinking game ever — “whisky slap,” as in “You take a shot of whisky, I slap you.” — skinny dip, couple up and guilt-out over coupling up during the course of that last weekend in the cabin.
Hey, at least there’s no stalker in the woods, no bigfoot watching them, no ghostly presence.
These flesh and blood folks have flesh and blood issues, of course. Most of them, we can see coming, even the ones that aren’t overused and banal.
The nostalgia is weak, the “betrayals” somewhat less than scandalous, the dialogue unquotably bland. Did this play in the same festivals as last August’s “About Alex”? Because “Beside Still Waters” makes that imitation “Chill” seem like Shakespeare, by comparison.
Daniel has a writerly bent — he’s always quoting Hemingway, researching “The Lost Generation” and drinking like Papa & Co. At least “Waters”, like Hemingway’s sentences, is mercifully short. Not short and punchy or short and catchy. Just brief, because even they know there’s no sense dragging out material this played.
MPAA Rating: unrated, with nudity, drunk driving, profanity and frank sexual discussions
Cast: Ryan Eggold, Britt Lower, Beck Bennett, Erin Darke, Jessy Hodges, Bret Dalton, Will Brill, Reid Scott
Credits: Directed by Chris Lowell, written by Chris Lowell, Mohit Narang. A Tribeca release.
Running time: 1:16

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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