Sure, it's funny when an adult man shows his butt in a movie or winces to the sounds of explosive diarrhea. The Will Ferrells and Ben Stillers have their places. But sometimes I crave a laugh that doesn't come from potty humor, and to do that job there are films like Expiration Date. Clever funny, dark funny.
Expiration Date, an independent film screened during the True West Cinema Festival, opens in Boise on Friday, August 18, at The Flicks. The movie is a story within a story, told by a patient Native American elder to a smarmy young dancer who wants off the rez. The elder recounts the story about Charlie Silvercloud, a third-generation Native American who lives in Seattle. Charlie's got baggage: a cursed lineage suggesting that he, like the other men in his family, will die on his 25th birthday after being hit by a milk truck. His father died on his 25th birthday when he was hit by a milk truck, as did his grandfather, and in the week before his 25th birthday, Charlie begins to plan accordingly by checking off items on a list of things to do before he kicks the bucket (such as cancel his cell phone and water his plants).
But while he's casket shopping, he meets Bessie Smith, an annoying yet lovable woman planning the funeral for her mother, and Bessie has some lessons about life for Charlie. A romance buds, but it sure is bad timing.
The lead actors are charismatic (including Dee Wallace-Stone, the mom from E.T.), all owning the right blend of neurosis and warmth. The peripheral characters, the faithful patrons of the coffee shop where Charlie makes coffee, are hysterically nuts. But the subtle witticism of the writing and filming is why Expiration Date has done so well on the film festival circuit.
What happens to Charlie and what he learns about himself is no big surprise, but the events that transpire as the menacing milk truck appears with increasing frequency while the clock ticks down to death day are clever, metaphorical and not yet played out in Hollywood. The film's message of revisiting your roots in order to learn about yourself is also refreshing because it comes through the specific theme of dance, not just some whimsical revelation.
While speaking in Boise during True West Cinema Festival, the film's director Rick Stevenson, admitted that the script had been revised more than 17 times over seven years. But he should deem it worthwhile work, because the end result may in fact be the best romantic comedy about death by milk truck ever made.