By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist January 27, 2011 at 5:21AM
We love the grainy, half-blurry shot of Uma Thurman and Michael Angarano in this new poster for "Ceremony," the debut feature-length directorial debut of Max Winkler (son of Henry Winkler), as it perfectly captures the ragged heart romance that's central to the film.
"Ceremony" tells the story of Sam (Michael Angarano), a young brazen adult who stalks his penpal and ex-girlfriend all the way to her wedding in the Hamptons. There's a real, what-could-have-been element to the picture as Jesse Eisenberg originally was supposed to star, but left the film to take the lead in "The Social Network," which he just scored an Oscar nomination for. How that might have changed the picture we'll never know, but frankly, we can't imagine anyone other than Angarano in the lead, carrying the part with an assured, insouciant swagger like a cockier Max Fischer. Angarano really came into his own in this picture and it might be his best performance so far.
Yes, the picture has its Wes Anderson-isms (and Hal Ashby and those similar sensibilities), but the picture also boasts a scene-stealing supporting cast including an excellent Lee Pace, a terrific Jake Johnson and a solid Reece Thompson, as Sam's best and put-upon friend Marshall (we added Pace and Johnson to our 2010 On The Rise: Ten Actors We Expect Great Things From feature right after seeing the film).
Featuring a great classic rock soundtrack and a Paul Simon song recorded by Vampire Weekend singer Ezra Koenig (Eric Johnson from The Fruit Bats wrote the score), Winkler's debut might be influenced and indebted to others, but it does display some incredibly adept and assured filmmaking (this does not seem like a first feature).
As occasionally cloying as the picture is, we're surprised it wasn't picked up by someone larger, perhaps the folks at Fox Searchlight, who already have Winkler's "The Ornate Anatomy of Living Things" set up there under development (Jason Reitman is a producer and Winkler and his collaborator Matt Spicer wrote "Whispers in Bedlam," a project Reitman is attached to direct (they both also wrote "The Adventurer's Handbook," which sold for king's ransom in 2008). Searchlight might have been able to turn the picture into a mid-sized coming-of-age hit like "Rushmore," "The Wackness" or "Juno." Alas, it didn't happen, but clearly the director has been spotted as an up-and-coming talent already and this is only the beginning.
"Ceremony" hits VOD on March 4, and then a theatrical release arrives on April 8. [Poster via Cinematical]