Austin Film Festival 2016 Review: Brave New Jersey

Posted in Film Festivals, Top Stories by - October 24, 2016
Austin Film Festival 2016 Review: Brave New Jersey

Brave New Jersey impeccably balances romance and hilarity on its way to a fabulous world premier at the Austin Film Festival.

Set in a time without cable news or internet, this narrative feature takes place in the small town of Lullaby, New Jersey, on the day before Halloween, October 30th, 1938. The film begins by introducing us to the lovable yet frail Mayor, Clark Hill(Tony Hale), who is in the process of painting the town’s sign to reflect a new accomplishment of sorts. Straight away we can see the lack of respect the township has for it’s mayor, and that theme continues to build throughout the narrative. Brave New Jersey continues to introduce us to more and Peg Prickett(Anna Camp), a strong willed school teacher, Lorraine Davison(Heather Burns), a wife who’s love is not returned to her, and Paul Davison(Sam Jaeger), Lorraine’s despicable husband, and also the bully of the town. These characters are central to the story’s plot, and continue to develop nicely as the feature progresses.

Brave New Jersey really gets going once nightfall comes, as the story depicts the famous Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. The small and impressionable town in New Jersey does not realize this is simply a tale, and starts preparing for a martian invasion. It is at this time in which people’s true characters begin to come out, as they now believe it is there last night on earth. The comedy truly starts to pick up at this point, and the writing is nothing short of exceptionally creative. We see the lovable school teacher Peg become a promiscuous vixen, Paul Davison leave his wife and kids behind to run off to his lover, and even the affable yet feeble mayor Hill profess his long lived loved for Lorraine.

One of the many charms to attending a film festival is having an opportunity to view a film with unknown talents. Now, sometimes those actors turn our spectacular, and you feel like you’re witnessing the beginning of a wonderful career, and other times they fall flat, ultimately ruining the film for the viewer. With Brave New Jersey, we get the best of both worlds. This comedic narrative feature combines the strengths of known actors, such as Tony Hale(Arrested Development), and Anna Camp(Pitch Perfect), with lesser known, although equally talented actors such as Grace Kaufman(Bad Teacher) and Dan Bakkedahl and many other members of the supporting cast. This allows the feature to maintain the talent in acting needed to make a great film while still feeling like a festival screening, and not a Hollywood release.

Director and co-writer Jody Lambert truly creates a funny, and intelligent screenplay with an exceptional amount of depth throughout. Its no wonder Lambert was able to draw in so much talent to complete the cast, and the film has been received exceptional well at the Austin Film Festival, and I’m willing to bet festivals to come. I hope to one day see Brave New Jersey get distribution, as the screenplay and performances are far and beyond most things we see in Hollywood today. 

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