Due to popular demand, THE AMERICAN SIDE will be held over for a second week! Stuhr and director/co-writer Jenna Ricker will be on hand for a Q & A on Wednesday, June 22 at the 7 pm showing at the Wilmette Theater.
If you’re a fan of film noir, you’re going to enjoy this new film, “The American Side,” which replicates the beauty, style, and humor of the classic 40’s and 50’s genre. Blending some facts with some fiction, the story takes us into murder, mystery, and science as the lackluster gum shoe, Charlie Paczynski (Greg Stuhr), attempts to put together the missing pieces of a puzzle. Where the trail of bread crumbs lead him could change the future of the world.
Set in the late 1970’s in Buffalo, NY, we meet Paczynski in a seedy little bar and get a glimpse into the type of private investigation he does: photos of cheating husbands. When his partner-in-crime is murdered, his attempt to find the murderer leads him to a long-buried mathematical secret by Nikola Tesla and those who want to keep it buried.
Growing up near Buffalo, the term “The American Side” has another meaning which the film immediately uses creatively to depict their story. Hearing 97 Rock from the old car radio as Paczynski drives through familiar streets immediately brought me back to high school days. This attention to period details is spot-on accurate, allowing you to travel back in time yet still retain that sense of wisdom from the comfort of your seat in 2016.
Attention to detail is also found in replicating the film noir style with the exception of using color. “The American Side” has the classic “femmes fatales,” a cynical detective, and the quick wit expected in this genre. Although formulaic in nature, the story is intriguing with its use of facts and the unusually interesting characters that continue to surface intermittently.
Humor within this dark and mysterious film is intelligently interwoven into each and every scene. The snarky retorts and quips spoken more as a side note take you off guard in a refreshing way. There are plenty of hilarious one-liners such as “That’s a gene pool screaming for chlorine” that continually counter-balance the ominous tone of the film. Take note of The Professor (Grant Shaud) and his boat in the beginning of this movie as this character becomes a comedic highlight.
“The American Side” is beautifully filmed, fully capturing the style intended. It’s dark and gritty at times as well as suspenseful, obtaining all of this with the trick of a camera angle and lighting. Directing this style is also rather tricky, but Jenna Ricker deftly gives her actors exactly the direction needed: a long glance; a tilt of a head; a slight smurk—it’s exactly what is needed.
The cast is simply stellar with the writer, Stuhr, taking on the lead role. His portrayal of Paczynski gives us the jaded, sarcastic, yet somehow hopeful private investigator who still has a moral compass. His commanding performance never overshadows the wonderful supporting characters played by Robert Forster, Robert Vaughn, and Matthew Broderick. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out another standout in the film, Alicja Bachleda who, prior to this film, had not been on my radar as a very talented actress. Her timing is impeccable and her ability to convey information with a slight change in expressions is priceless. With a tight script, succinct editing, and an extremely talented cast, “The American Side” is just the right combination for an entertaining film. Throw in a little history lesson and you’ve got it all in this film.
“The American Side” is a refreshing throw back to film noir style, reminding us why we found it so charming and entertaining in the first place. Filming in the Buffalo area is an unusual choice, but also a refreshing one. (As this is near my hometown of Chautauqua, I’d like to thank the filmmakers for using Buffalo!) It’s a fun romp in murder-mystery that will make you think and laugh. What more can you ask for?
If you’re in the Chicago area, be sure to attend the premiere of “The American Side” on Friday, June 17 at the Wilmette Theatre, 1122 Central Ave, Wilmette. Actor Greg Stuhr, Director Jenna Ricker, and Producer Mary Henry will all be in attendance to answer questions after the film!