SFIFF58 Spotlights #7: Welcome to Me/Very Semi-Serious/Two Shots Fired

by Carrie Kahn on May 6, 2015

The 58th San Francisco International Film Festival closes tomorrow, Thursday, May 7th, but that still leaves you time to see some films, including the closing night film, Experimenter (with Winona Ryder in attendance for the Q&A!). The screening is at 7:00pm at the Castro Theatre, and info and tickets are available here.

In the meantime, we’re spotlighting three other films that played during the Fest. And be sure check back after Thursday for our final wrap up.

Welcome to Me
(USA, 2014, 86 min, Marquee Presentations)

Alice (Kristen Wiig) and Gabe (Wes Bentley) form a connection.

Saturday Night Live and Bridesmaids alum Kristen Wiig stars in director Shira Piven’s new film, but the picture is no lightweight comedy. It has some rich laughs, to be sure, but, ultimately, it’s a smart, compassionate, and serious look at mental illness and the narcissism of new social media and reality TV platforms. Wiig plays Alice, a Palm Desert former veterinary nurse with borderline personality disorder who wins the lottery and decides to invest her winnings in a local talk show hosted by, and entirely about, her. The film deftly explores the collision between mental and cultural illness, and Wiig continues to flex the dramatic muscle we saw in last year’s The Skeleton Twins by giving her bravest performance yet. A stellar supporting cast, helmed by Tim Robbins as a patient but firm therapist, and the wonderful Joan Cusack, channeling her famous Broadcast News character, help to shape the picture’s serio-comic tone. Wes Bentley, James Marsden, Linda Cardellini, and Jennifer Jason Leigh nicely complement the proceedings as well, but this is Wiig’s show all the way, and she’s absolutely masterful. Put this one on your must-see list now.


  • Opens this Friday, May 8th, in limited release in the Bay Area, including at the AMC Van Ness and the Presidio Theatres in San Francisco, and the Elmwood Theater in Berkeley. You can watch the trailer here.

Very Semi-Serious
(USA, 2015, 86 min, Golden Gate Award Competitions-Documentaries)

New Yorker Cartoon Editor extraordinaire Bob Mankoff reviews some possibilities.

Die-hard fans of the New Yorker usually love its cartoons as much as its articles, and if that sounds like you, you’re sure to love this film. Director Leah Wolchock takes us inside the magazine and introduces us to Bob Mankoff, the Cartoon Editor for the last 15 years. Mankoff has the enviable (or perhaps unenviable, depending on your perspective) job of reviewing the 1000+ cartoons received weekly, and selecting just 15 to appear in each issue. Highly intelligent, quirky, and personable, Mankoff makes for an excellent protagonist. His stories and musings about his job, the New Yorker, humor, and art are fascinating and engaging. Wolchock also includes interviews with many well-known, long-time New Yorker cartoonists (Roz Chast, Mort Gerberg, Bruce Eric Kaplan), as well as younger up-and-comers (Emily Flake, Ed Steed, Liana Fink), and their reflections on their work – including their successes and failures – are always thoughtful and insightful. Wolchock’s insider’s view (learning about the storied Cartoon Caption Contest is especially fun) is just the right amount of dishy and intriguing.


  • On the film festival circuit now; keep your eye out for a possible wide release date. You can view the trailer here.

Two Shots Fired (Dos Disparos)
(Argentina/Chile/Germany/Netherlands, 2014, 104 min, Global Visions. In Spanish with English subtitles)

Mariano (Rafael Federman, left) and his brother Ezequiel (Benjamin Coelho) take a drive.

A sense of detachment pervades Argentinian director Martín Rejtman’s new film, which has the sensibility of a Raymond Carver short story. The narrative plays like a series of vignettes; the film opens with teenage Mariano (Rafael Federman) impulsively shooting himself with a gun he finds in the family garage, but then Rejtman turns our attention to Mariano’s mother (Susana Pampin) as she goes on holiday with an eclectic assortment of characters. The film’s deadpan tone is both comedic and confounding, and forces us to wonder if there is any “right” way to react to tragedy. By focusing on small, every day moments, Rejtman lets us see that life is always made up of both the serious and the mundane, and that extreme emotions don’t always have to take center stage. Whether or not you agree with this viewpoint, you’re sure to be captivated by Rejtman’s provocative film, which will provides plenty to discuss after the credits roll.


  • Opens in New York on May 13th; keep your eye out for possible Bay Area release dates after that.





Carrie Kahn

Moving from the arthouse to the multiplex with grace, ease, and only the occasional eye roll.

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