November

on July 22, 2005 by Annlee Ellingson
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More than any of its other movies--"Tape," "Tadpole," "Personal Velocity" or "Pieces of April"--InDigEnt's "November" is uniquely suited for the type of moviemaking to which the digital cinema production company aspires. A psychological thriller that explores how memory, particularly in the context of a trauma, shapes a person's reality, the film pushes the aesthetic boundaries of video, using light, color, design and visual cues to clue the viewer in to each moment's level of reality and emotional tenor.

Turning the traditional three-act structure on its head, here the same scenario plays out three times, each with a different set of circumstances and outcomes. On the first night in question, November 7, Sophie (Courteney Cox, deglamourized for a dramatic turn far removed from her role on TV's "Friends") and her boyfriend Hugh (James LeGros) stop at a convenience store after dinner one night for a sweet treat. While Sophie waits in the car and surreptitiously calls the co-worker with whom she's having an affair, Hugh is murdered in a violent robbery. Wracked with guilt, she tries to move forward, continuing to teach photography at a local art college. But, when a slide of her car parked in front of the corner store on the night in question turns up in her class, Sophie questions whether she's experiencing paranoid visions stemming from her grief or whether someone else knows about the murder.

In the second version of the incident that night, however, it's Sophie's lover who is shot and killed, and the third submits yet another variation of events. Some scenes remain the same each time the story plays out with only slight alterations: In each scenario Sophie joins her mother for lunch, where Mom inevitably spills a drink, and visits her shrink, each time having to take the stairs up to her office because the elevator is broken. It's the pivotal moment and its consequences that change. It's as though Sophie is reconstructing the painful memory into one that she can live with.

Much like the photographs that she takes, Sophie's life becomes a picture of her own construction, refracted through the lens of her memory, with some critical pieces of information included in the frame and others left out. Helmer Greg Harrison and cinematographer Nancy Schreiber use color and imagery to sort out the real from the imagined--a murky green hue for the convenience store, the source of her emotional confusion; clear, bright coloring for flashbacks that are rooted in indisputable fact; and the deep crimson of a spilled drink or blood to denote a the fracturing of reality.

But unfortunately the intention of Harrison and writer Benjamin Brand is rather oblique, the meaning of the alternate realities they've created too ambiguous. The interpretation posited above developed not in the viewing of the movie but after much thought in the writing of this review, and one wouldn't call it a safe bet that it's what the filmmakers had in mind anyway. Even the gamest viewers will become frustrated if they're not let in on the joke. Starring Courteney Cox, James LeGros, Michael Ealy, Nora Dunn, Nick Offerman and Anne Archer. Directed by Greg Harrison. Written by Benjamin Brand. Produced by Danielle Renfrew, Gary Winick and Jake Abraham. An IFC release. Psychological thriller. Not yet rated. Running time: 78 min

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