What fascinates about “Supporting Characters,” the new relationship comedy premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, is that it’s greatest strength also registers as its most notable weakness. This decidedly Noo Yawk tale of an editing team in New York City and their satellite friends wouldn’t be at home as an extended pilot on IFC, with these two best friend leads getting into all sorts of middle-aged male troubles. It’s good, and bad, just like TV.
Darryl (co-writer Tarik Lowe) and Nick (Alex Karpovsky) are two movie editors trying to rescue yet another banal middlebrow indie picture from what looks, from a distance, like future distributor-less VOD hell. They share a considerable shorthand, one that makes them closer to each other than they are with their respective girlfriends. Nick withstands the chastisement of his 9-to-5 fiancee (Sophia Takal) and Darryl tries to navigate the chasm between himself and his sideways-glancing girlfriend (Melonie Diaz). Though there are low stakes in regards to their current job, working with a detached out-of-control director (Kevin Corrigan), career opportunities lie on the horizon. But when Nick is offered another editing job without Darryl, he’s got to decide whether his friendship is more important than the next big paycheck that will allow him to live comfortably with his future wife. Speaking of which, is that wedding bells we hear on the horizon for Darryl? Tune in next week for our exciting conclusion!
There’s also the matter of the super sexy plot devi- uh, leading lady in the film within a film, and her noted flirtation with gullible Nick. In one of those “I was supposed to be a star, now I just play stars” performances, Arielle Kebbel is Jamie, the hot, nubile starlet who openly flirts with the more-than-willing Nick. In one sequence, the two trade sex demands as he tries to coax an overdub voiceover from her, the two of them getting more graphic and vile in an attempt at comedic one-upmanship. In a one-scene cameo, Lena Dunham looks on, irritated. The meta-ness of her reaction to such canned artificiality speaks volumes, though, being a good sport, she adds a sitcom quip to close the sequence.
There is a lived-in quality to “Supporting Characters” that comes from either a strong cast or days of rehearsal -- unclear as to whether they had the latter, though they definitely have the former. Lowe is a relatable comic presence who can play a double take as humor without mugging for the camera, a skill much more difficult than you’d think. Karpovsky, meanwhile, has already mastered this particular brand of fast-talking, self-loathing asshole. This is his second film at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, and while he’s no Woody Allen, it’s clear he could develop a reputation as another Eric Shaeffer. The two of them really shine through the contrived nature of these set-ups, to the point where we’re halfway through season two, the writing staff having long run out of compelling ideas, the actors still spinning gold (maybe bronze) out of silk. These two are worth following again, hopefully with more interesting conflict for them to parse through.
“Supporting Characters” is shot and edited nicely at least, moving quickly and refusing to overstay its welcome. Wondering whether Nick will keep flirting with the movie star, or if Darryl can please his girlfriend before she splits, provide mediocre framework for these two and their evolving work relationship. Though the title suggests a subplot about the two cutting a bit player from their finished film resonates with the filmmakers. These are the types of people we never see behind the scenes of a film. “Supporting Characters” seems to unfortunately suggest why. [C]