[NYC Independent Film Festival] Giving Up (2017) - Reviewed

Giving Up (2017), written and directed by Kris Lefcoe, and filmed by Nicolas de Miranda is an American comedy. It's a funny story of a not so young couple, Ira and Mo, trying to make it big in New York City.

The narrative of trying to make it in the "Big Apple" is juxtaposed against the countdown of their approaching deadline which creates a sense of urgency, backstory, trials and tribulations, smoldering passions, tensions within their relationship, and honesty. The motif of running out of time sets up the dramatic tension in the film. Ben Kronberg plays Ira Kastner and Zandy Hartig plays Mo Callahan. The comedy is superbly acted and Kronberg's portrayal of Ira is equally matched in intensity, quirkiness and humor by Callahan's performance. They have chemistry and are amusing to watch when playing off each other, and separably. You wonder, are they delusional, neurotic or what?

It is a marvelous short film drawing on the many shades of comedy from slapstick to funny one-liners to comedic situations to stand up to create a funny narrative and storyline. One of the funniest scenes in the film is seeing Mo light up a doobey in the kitchen of her office on her first day of employment as a copywriter only to discover the windows don't open, and having to hold her breath while she makes a mad dash to get outside of the building. Another is Ira who discovers, after taking a dump, the toilet doesn't flush, and talks shit with Lenny from Maintenance played by Linas Phillips. The film is made up of a terrific, stellar cast of comedic actors which includes Dave Hill, Linas Phillips, Kyle Dunnigan, and Tyler Fischer to name just a few which intensifies the film with deadpan humour and acting. It's a thoroughly enjoyable romp of a short film, and could envisage it as a feature length film.

Lefcoe weaves together many elements to create a visually appealing film which includes diverse angle shots, editing techniques, out of focus to focus shots, and both day and night and interior and exterior footage. He uses interstitial titles to structure his film, and New York City figures prominently in the film, like a character, framing and contextualizing the narrative and storyline, giving the film depth and complexity. The film is beautifully shot and the cut aways and aerial shots of NYC are gorgeous to look at leaving me with a desire to plan another visit very soon indeed.

The film resonated with me on a personal level not only conveying meaningful messages in a comedic way but by raising important existential questions such the meaning of life. I thought of the song New York, New York sung by Frank Sinatra and its lyrics and especially the lines, "if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere". Is success overrated? What if you can't or don't make it anywhere? What are the odds of joining the 1%? After all, New York City is home to the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Should I go on living for the sake of living or just to perpetuate my existence? What direction should my life take in light of my awareness of the status quo? The film struck a chord with me. I guess I have my work cut out for me!

I thought Giving Up one of the best comedic movies I have ever seen and highly recommend it. The acting, the storyline, the dialogue, and the cinematography make for a great short film. 

The film screens at the NYC Independent Film Festival on May 12th.

-Stefan Chiarantano