Director: David Fenster
Starring: David Nordstrom, Paul Fenster, Christi Idavoy, Dietmar Franosch
A narrative competition world premiere at the recent Los Angeles Film Festival, “Pincus” is a delicately shot curio about the meanderings of an emotionally adrift man-child, laced with autobiographical elements from writer-director David Fenster’s life. Picture a more melancholic, down-tempo “Greenberg,” vacuumed free of its pin-prick wit and sardonicism, and one begins to approximate the bobbing-cork-in-an-ocean qualities of “Pincus,” which exhibits a slight hold but eventually comes across as a series of posed moments in search of a clarifying signifier.
David Nordstrom sits in for the filmmaker, starring as Pincus Finster, a directionless Miami thirtysomething who lives with and cares for his Parkinson’s-stricken father (Paul Fenster, the director’s father, and an actual Parkinson’s patient). His father used to own and operate a contractor business, but Pincus’ halfhearted attempts at keeping things going seem maintained chiefly to just provide him with an excuse to get out of the house. He hangs out with Dietmar (Dietmar Franosch), an illegal German immigrant and one of his father’s old employees, drinking and smoking pot, and sifting through different dreams each have had. Phone messages from disgruntled customers start piling up, but Pincus instead seeks a sort of refuge in a holistic yoga class, where he sidles up to instructor Anna (Christi Idavoy). She agrees to help Pincus try out some alternative therapy treatments on his father, but remains ambivalent about any romantic connection.
Any discussion of what’s right with the easygoing “Pincus” begins with its beguiling naturalistic style. Fenster blends documentary elements (his father, simplistic editorial framing) with occasionally improvised-seeming dialogue, which focuses attention on the film’s characters in hard and fast fashion. It is to the movie’s benefit, then, that Nordstorm is such an amiable peg on which to hang this loose a story.
Unfortunately, while there exists around the edges of the unfolding narrative the opportunity for much more dramatic engagement, Fenster seems allergic to conflict. His film toes the line between stubbornly minimalist and, if not pointless, then at least futile. “Pincus” cries out for an injection of dynamism from somewhere, be it in the form of Anna, more ruinous and concrete financial consequences, or some other problem. The sudden disappearance of Dietmar crops up as a minor mystery, but is poorly integrated into Pincus’ quest. This is shoe-gazing cinema — perfectly serviceable for curated, air-quote appreciation, but lacking in breakout insights or vision.
NOTE: For more information, visit www.pincus-movie.com.
Written by: Brent Simon