Fits and Starts | SXSW Film Review

In Fits and Starts, David and Jennifer are a loving couple with similar aspirations as authors, though they feel distinctly separate in regards to the nuts-and-bolts of realizing those dreams. Jennifer (Greta Lee) has now published two novels, navigated the social demands of selling her work to the public, and is enjoying a minor celebrity status. David (Wyatt Cenac), on the other hand, is unmotivated by economic success or notoriety, he just wants to tell his story.

Following the couple as they journey to an evening gathering of writers and agents at Jennifer’s publicist’s home – where every stereotypical ‘artist’ template you can imagine is accurately represented – we discover what makes these characters tick. Cenac’s eccentric take on David works in his benefit as his neurotic behavior becomes more reasonable, even rational, as we witness how little Jennifer has supported his goals. On the flip side, Jennifer’s emerging success illustrates that many of the points she is making, specifically in relation to David’s floundering career, are justified. As David and Jennifer are separated while hunting down an impossible bottle of wine, each of them discover an appreciation for the other’s plight while typical hijinks ensue.

Greta Lee is given little to do or expand upon as Jennifer disappears for an extended stretch of the film, which hurts her arc in a way. Cenac, meanwhile, is given front-and-center attention and manages to even outshine his insane beard to carry the film to its bittersweet conclusion. Weaving in-and-out of insanity throughout the evening, David is forced to confront the very harsh truth that he may just be incapable of mimicking Jennifer’s fortune.

Similar to David, writer-director Laura Terruso just wants to tell a story, and is not looking to turn her latest film into a deep exploration of the human psyche. Instead, she simply wants to drop her camera into the lives of two individuals and allow us to observe them on a night that could affect their careers in different ways. It’s a minimalist tale where not much happens, yet we remain engaged for the duration.

The downside is that by the end of the film, it just doesn’t add up to much. We leave Fits and Starts with a pair of actors who gave engaging performances, but we saw how the entire film would play out 15 minutes in. While entertaining, even charming at times, this is a forgettable adventure that would be better served as a book-on-tape, as it ultimately takes us nowhere we haven’t traveled before.

In Fits and Starts, David and Jennifer are a loving couple with similar aspirations as authors, though they feel distinctly separate in regards to the nuts-and-bolts of realizing those dreams. Jennifer (Greta Lee) has now published two novels, navigated the social demands of selling her work to the public, and…

Hollywood Outsider Review Score

Performances - 6.5
Story - 5
Production - 5

5.5

Fits and Starts is an entertaining but forgettable tale of two married writers trying to find middle ground.

Screened at the SXSW Film Festival
Starring Wyatt Cenac, Greta Lee and Maria Dizzia
Written by Laura Terruso
Directed by Laura Terruso

About Aaron B. Peterson

The Hollywood Outsider was born in an attempt to discuss a myriad of genres, while also serving as a sounding board for the ‘Average Joe’ – those film buffs who can appreciate Taxi Driver just as much as Transformers – without an ounce of pretentiousness. I try to approach each film on its own merits, and through the eyes the filmmakers intended.

Enjoy yourself. Be unique. Most importantly, ‘Buy Popcorn’. Aaron@TheHollywoodOutsider.com