Sunday, May 2, 2010

IFF BOSTON: Drones (2010)

This review is part of my coverage of the Independent Film Festival of Boston 2010. (official site)

This was one of my most-anticipated films of the festival, and I'm happy to say that it didn't disappoint. With the amazing team-up of Amber Benson and Adam Busch as co-directors, writers Ben Blacker and Ben Acker (which sounds way too conveniently-named a pairing), and actors Samm Levine, James Urbaniak, Dave "Gruber" Allen, and Jonathan M Woodward, Drones is a veritable mash-up of Joss Whedon, Freaks and Geeks, and wit all wrapped up in science-fiction romance.

Regular-guy office worker Brian (Woodward) finds his intentionally uneventful life turned upside down when he discovers his coworker and best friend Clark (Levine) is an alien on a clandestine mission to observe if Earth is ready for conquest and enslavement by his people. After Clark convinces him that he's in no rush to give up his cushy Earth life and will postpone enslavement indefinitely, Brian accepts this realization pretty casually. That same day he asks out flirty co-worker Amy (Angela Bettis), and what starts out as a cheery weekend romance turns sour when he finds out that she too is an alien, from a race bent on eventually destroying the planet and using it for fuel. Office politics quickly become more complicated as one man's actions begin to affect the fate of Earth.

Set entirely in the seemingly harmless office space, Drones utilizes clever writing and remarkably likable actors for a very enjoyable and off-beat comedy. The dialogue is fast-paced and often ludicrous, with a lot of off-hand jokes flying by while you're laughing and making a second viewing desirable. The strange story is handled deftly and subtly, forsaking fantastical visuals for the charm of the every day, allowing off-kilter but relatable relationship drama to unfold under searing florescent lights. I loved the laid-back, matter-of-fact approach to the science-fiction elements, with most characters reacting to the whole alien thing without great surprise.

The cast is excellent: Woodward is adorable and enthusiastic as the hapless, part-time idiot Brian, Bettis is punchy and driven as the emotionally crippled Amy, and Samm Levine is just generally awesome, as usual, and it's so nice to see him with a decent-sized film role. I loved the side characters of Powerpoint-obsessed boss Pete (the perpetually enjoyable James Urbaniak), relationship-challenged Miryam (Tangi Miller), and everyone's favorite neo-hippie, Cooperman (Dave "Gruber" Allen). The actors all exude a likable chemistry and everyone's comedic timing plays off each other expertly.

Once in a while the writing is hit-and-miss, with some jokes falling flat and others zooming by unnoticed, but generally Drones is witty and entertaining with a splendid cast and attentive shooting style. It's the kind of film that left me smiling, just caught up in its overall cuteness. Best of all, the charming Amber Benson was at the screening for a Q&A, and she was kind enough to give me my first-ever interview! Look for the transcript this week (hopefully tomorrow) for insights into how she worked with boyfriend Adam Busch as co-directors, her dream comic-turned-movie, and more!


Further Reading:
Drones official site
Drones Facebook page
/Film interview


  1. Sadly I'm gonna miss the London Premiere of this film but I am looking forward to seeing it off the back of Amber's other directing work.

    Good review, well balanced which is always the best as overly fawning reviews never give a true account of a movie to readers imho.

  2. You bastard, yucking it up at a film festival I can only go to in my movie-star-fantasies.

    Good review, anyway. You wouldn't happen to have a trailer, would you?

  3. Ronnie: Thank you so much for the kind words! I'm sorry you missed Drones but I believe they've received distribution so it should be available soon enough.

    Simon: Aw man I didn't mean to brag! And the trailer is right on the front page of the film's website (which I linked to at the bottom).

  4. Oh, dear, I must see it now! God, that looks awesome!