REVIEW: Daddy Longlegs

21 05 2017

Josh and Benny Safdie were not the first people to assume verité-style camerawork guaranteed emotional authenticity, nor will they be the last. But their Cassavetes clone “Daddy Longlegs” might just be the film that made me far too aware of how low-budget filmmakers can hollow out techniques just as easily as their studio counterparts.

The Safdie brothers obtain a remarkable quality of naturalism that pervades their shaky camera and grainy look … but in service of what? The filmmakers are so focused on the how that they lose sight of the what. “Daddy Longlegs” tells the story of a deadbeat dad that essentially amounts to little more than a cross between the first act of “Kramer vs. Kramer” (pre-Dustin Hoffman’s redemption) and “Blue Valentine.” He’s a mess to the point of being a danger for his two young children, but he does love them! That’s true in both the first frame and the last.

The film feels less like a character study and more of a chain of cringe-worthy events that further convince us of his complete lack of qualifications to be a parent. Narrative journeys are not a mandatory feature of cinema, and the stasis of a character often speaks just as loudly as a drastic evolution. But given the self-conscious naturalism the Safdies work so hard to obtain, it’s a shame that “Daddy Longlegs” amounts to little more than the latest variation on a familiar stock character. B-



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