Movies Reviews Scott Prendergast

Release Date: July 4
Director: Scott Prendergast
Writer: Scott Prendegast
Cinematographer: Michael Lohmann
Starring: Scott Prendergast, Lisa Kudrow, Teri Garr, Christine Taylor
Studio/Run Time: Sony Pictures/Columbia, 88 mins.

The story of how war affects everyone involved, from its planners to its victims, has been told on film countless times. One of the less explored aspects, though, is the way a soldier’s families can end up being victims as well. Kabluey acts as an attempt to rectify this by rewriting the classical Hollywood Mrs. Miniver story, where a soldier’s family pulls together for the wartime effort. Instead, the family here is thrown into turmoil and falls apart in every way possible, with the specter of loss on everyone’s minds. Given all this heavy thematic weight on its shoulders, it’s miraculous that Kabluey manages to be a comedy. Even more miraculous is how good of a comedy it ends up being.

After Leslie’s (played by Lisa Kudrow) National Guard husband is stop-lossed in Iraq, her brother-in-law Salman (played by writer/director Scott Prendergast) stays with her and her children as a babysitter because he’s broke. Leslie is nearly catatonic with grief and her children are going berserk with no one around to discipline them. After a few days it becomes clear that the situation can’t continue, so Leslie gets Salman to work as her company’s mascot, Kabluey, a job that involves standing in the scorching Texas summer all day in an attempt to sell office space.

All of this takes place in Prendergast’s bleak, suburban America. Kabluey’s cinematography hearkens back to Terrence Malick and John Ford, which gives both its comedy and its characters space to work and develop. Especially for a first feature, both Prendergast’s writing and direction are remarkably assured and calm. Rather than the improvised feeling of a Judd Apatow film or the broad nature of a studio comedy, every scene feels precise and deliberate. The common complaint with comedies is that they’re visually poor in order to maximize the humor, but Prendergast’s comedy revels in the beauty of its shots. Kabluey follows in the same tradition of satire as Kubrick and Fincher, where just as much is told by the language of the camera as by the characters.

Earlier this year, Stop-Loss finally gave us a mature film on the war in Iraq. Unfortunately, its numbers were meager. With Kabluey now being released, 2008 is offering another take on the war that is equally vital. However, perhaps because the film is so varied (Is it a war satire? An ersatz superhero film? A family comedy?), Kabluey has extremely limited distribution. If it comes to your city, be sure to check out one of the lost gems of the year.

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