One of the great things about smaller independent films is that the freedom they explore in not getting pigeon-holed into one specific genre. As the recently-passed Tribeca Festival caters to the independents it follows that they reap the benefits of this formula. Case in point is one of the festival’s better selections this year ASHBY which combines drama, comedy (or dark comedy) sprinkled with a bit of teen angst, romance, action and even neo-noir.
“Sarah Silverman in her first semi-serious role gives a great performance”
The film stars Mickey Rourke as the title character in what starts out as the typical Mickey Rourke type role that he obviously does better than anybody. Ashby Holt is a loner with a mysterious past whose been through the mill and yet manages to keep a sense of humor about it. After being given a terminal prognosis he decides to settle some old business before succumbing to his fate. In the meantime his new neighbor, teenager Ed Wallis (Nat Wolff of the recent THE FAULT IN OUR STARS) tries to fit into his new surroundings. He is befriended by high-school friend and future love interest Eloise (played by Emma Roberts whose father actually worked with Rourke thirty years ago in THE POPE OF GREENWICH VILLAGE. And proving that if you can do comedy, you can do anything, Sarah Silverman gives a great performance in her first semi-serious role as Ed’s single mother June.
As Ed tries to fit in by joining the football team he is met with ridicule and embarrassment. To offset his unsuccessful jock dream he attempts to take the scholarly approach and begins working on an assignment which requires him to write an essay about someone from an older generation. Of course in picking his odd neighbor he gets more than he bargained for as Rourke’s character is a retired CIA assassin. Ashby agrees to be Ed’s subject provided Ed becomes his makeshift chauffeur and errand boy driving him around town in his mother’s 1966 Oldsmobile Cutlass. Along the way Ashby teaches Ed about self defense (via a hilarious and touching boxing scene), courage and love.
“A fun ride of mixed themes and divergent cast members”
The cast and versatile plot are brought together and balanced nicely by writer/director Tony McNamara who loves the coupling of different generations. In fact, in an apparent homage to one of the forerunning films of that combination, HAROLD & MAUDE, he names his main character after its director, Hal Ashby. Aiding McNamara’s direction is the great chemistry shared by Rourke & Wallis and Wallis & Roberts (who previously worked together in PALO ALTO). The film co-stars Michael Lerner, Kevin Dunn and Zachary Knighton. ASHBY is a fun ride of mixed themes and divergent cast members.