Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: James Bond Is Back In First Trailer For 'Spectre' Starring Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista, & More Watch: James Bond Is Back In First Trailer For 'Spectre' Starring Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista, & More Terrence Malick's Next Film With Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara & Michael Fassbender Reportedly Gets Titled Terrence Malick's Next Film With Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara & Michael Fassbender Reportedly Gets Titled Watch: Jake Gyllenhaal Gets Bloody And Bruised In First Trailer For Boxing Drama 'Southpaw' Watch: Jake Gyllenhaal Gets Bloody And Bruised In First Trailer For Boxing Drama 'Southpaw' New Infographic Lays Out Canonical 'Star Wars' Timeline With Films, TV And Books New Infographic Lays Out Canonical 'Star Wars' Timeline With Films, TV And Books First Official Image: Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' First Official Image: Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Watch: First Trailer For Arnold Schwarzenegger's Zombie Pic 'Maggie' With Abigail Breslin Watch: First Trailer For Arnold Schwarzenegger's Zombie Pic 'Maggie' With Abigail Breslin Idris Elba Replaces Jamie Foxx In Harmony Korine's 'The Trap,' Al Pacino, Robert Pattinson, James Franco Also Join Idris Elba Replaces Jamie Foxx In Harmony Korine's 'The Trap,' Al Pacino, Robert Pattinson, James Franco Also Join 10 Terrible Films Starring Great Actors 10 Terrible Films Starring Great Actors Watch: Tom Hanks Acts Out His Filmography In 7-Minutes On 'The Late Late Show' Watch: Tom Hanks Acts Out His Filmography In 7-Minutes On 'The Late Late Show' New Directors/New Films Review: Jia Zhang-ke Produced 'K' Is A New Take On Franz Kafka's 'The Castle' New Directors/New Films Review: Jia Zhang-ke Produced 'K' Is A New Take On Franz Kafka's 'The Castle' Viggo Mortensen Reveals He Turned Down Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight,' Auditioned For 'Reservoir Dogs' Viggo Mortensen Reveals He Turned Down Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight,' Auditioned For 'Reservoir Dogs' Watch: First Teaser Trailer For 'Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation' With Tom Cruise Arrives, If You Choose To Accept It Watch: First Teaser Trailer For 'Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation' With Tom Cruise Arrives, If You Choose To Accept It Jonathan Nolan Says His Original Ending To 'Interstellar' Was “Much More Straightforward” Jonathan Nolan Says His Original Ending To 'Interstellar' Was “Much More Straightforward” The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

HIFF Review: Charming 'Sin Bin' Heavily Indebted To The Work Of Wes Anderson

Photo of Drew Taylor By Drew Taylor | The Playlist October 9, 2012 at 6:02PM

Young filmmakers often reference their heroes outright. This isn't a phenomenon exclusive to creatively wayward directors; look at the early films of genuine auteur Paul Thomas Anderson to see wholesale theft from Martin Scorsese and Robert Altman (to name a few). But when the references are a distraction to the point of actively taking away from the enjoyment of the movie, that's when things become a problem. And it's a problem that plagues the otherwise wonderful "Sin Bin," a charming little comedy about a high school kid (Michael Seater) who rents his beat-up van out to his fellow students for sexual liaisons, which owes such a stylistic debt to the films of Wes Anderson that it makes you think somewhat less of the movie.
1
Sin Bin

Young filmmakers often reference their heroes outright. This isn't a phenomenon exclusive to creatively wayward directors; look at the early films of genuine auteur Paul Thomas Anderson to see wholesale theft from Martin Scorsese and Robert Altman (to name a few). But when the references are a distraction to the point of actively taking away from the enjoyment of the movie, that's when things become a problem. And it's a problem that plagues the otherwise wonderful "Sin Bin," a charming little comedy about a high school kid (Michael Seater) who rents his beat-up van out to his fellow students for sexual liaisons, which owes such a stylistic debt to the films of Wes Anderson that it makes you think somewhat less of the movie.

From the beginning, the movie seems to be tipping its hat to Anderson. Examples abound – the super-thick Futura bold font utilized for the title cards; the way the camera whips around as it follows Brian (Seater) through the halls of his prep school; the score that seems directly lifted from Mark Mothersbaugh's work on "Rushmore;" the fact that every high schooler dresses like Andre 3000, complete with tailored blazers and bowties the color of expensive pills; the slow-motion-for-no-good-reason pans. On their own, these flourishes are engaging and cute, much like the rest of the movie. The problem is that the references, both subtle and overt, seem to pile up like some catastrophic highway collision, so that by the time that the end titles start (after an unnecessarily drawn out slow-motion shot again reminiscent of Anderson), you shut down completely. (Somewhere, some festival nerd is already concocting a drinking game based around this.) Which is too bad. It would be less frustrating if "Sin Bin" didn't come so close to greatness. But it really, really does. It's got a smart script and a strong cast full of outrageously talented kids and captures some very real feelings of sexual frustration and isolation associated with the painfully awkward process of growing up. It would just be much more fun if the specter of Anderson wasn't haunting every goddamn frame.

Sin Bin

From the frantic beginning, which shows Brian as he maneuvers reservations with various friends for use of the Sin Bin (named, it's later revealed, for the penalty box in hockey), the movie has a propulsive energy that is absolutely infectious. Brian, his hair whipped into a crazy swirl, his off-kilter smile betraying some inner melancholy, organizes these sexual encounters and facilitates them, but is still a virgin himself. He's in love with a class hottie (Emily Meade), but socially unequipped and terrified. So Brian enlists the help of Tony (Bo Burnham, stealing every scene), a posh dude who knows how to deal with the girls and drives a vintage Jaguar that Ferris Bueller would handily endorse (when Brian asks him why he drives shift, Tony shoots back, "The same reason why I don't wear shorts") Of course, the nature of their relationship changes when it's revealed that one of the girls Tony is bedding also happens to be the literal girl of Brian's dreams.

While it would be easy to classify "Sin Bin" as yet another twee-as-fuck coming-of-age confection, that would be doing it a disservice. There's a timelessness and simplicity to the movie that recalls the works of John Hughes, there isn't a cell phone or computer in sight (the suburban Chicago setting certainly lends something to this, too) and a frankness to its depiction of sex that is refreshing and totally contemporary. It's got a hooky central conceit that would be easy to be fully encased in some kind of "Porky's"-on-wheels sex romp; hermetically sealed in dick jokes and masturbation gags. The fact that it isn't is a testament to its maturity and sophistication; the fact that it manages to cover so much thematic and emotional ground within that framework is pretty astounding.

Sin Bin

There are also a number of subplots that add some layers, and don't detract at all from the main thrust of the movie, most notably the return of Brian's absentee brother Benny (Brian Petsos) and the relationship their family has to the cop next door (Tim Blake Nelson), who was friends with the kids' dead father and keeps an eye on the family. There's a great sequence where Suzie (Meade) gets drunk in the van after being slighted by Tony and the three of them carry her inside the house. The way that the three of them interact and the way that Brian looks after Suzie suggests so much history between the characters and says so much more than pages of dialogue could ever achieve. Director Billy Federighi has a strong sense of narrative economy, letting scenes play out over long takes instead of quickly cutting around, which moves things along and also very smartly lets the actors take center stage.

It's the actors that really make "Sin Bin" such a blast to watch. Even though they are all very young and many of them unknown, their relative inexperience never comes through and they (largely) shine as bright as any movie star. Their chemistry is palpable and their comic timing snappy, and even though they're existing in a highly stylized world, wearing clothes they probably wouldn't put on in real life and speaking in screwball comedy-speak, a natural realism comes through. It's just that the naturalism seems to be a fight, given the cluttered amount of references and stylistic embroidery they're surrounded by. Had the filmmakers shaved away some of the embellished excess, they might have had a minor classic on their hands, worthy of the Anderson and Hughes canon. Instead, they have a very good movie whose reverence ends up bringing it down. [B]

This article is related to: Hamptons International Film Festival, Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome

E-Mail Updates