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Monday, June 22, 2015

'In the Treetops' Festival Premiere: Smells Like Teen Angst

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The genuinely indie flick "In the Treetops," which had a June 14 2015 world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival ahead of a general release, has the same terrific elements as the recently reviewed "Dances With Films" movies "In Stereo" and "The Last Treasure Hunt." All three productions are wonderful collaborations of folks with strong interests in the artistic aspect of film making.

"Treetops" is the first production of writer/director/star Matthew Brown. The other four actors met Brown at the North Carolina School for the Arts. This group shows that good film making requires no more than a well-presented universal story, a basic movie camera, a dedicated group, and folks literally willing to let you film in their backyard (and their living room).

"Treetops" occurs over roughly 12 hours during a Saturday night/Sunday morning of typical high school students. The opening scene in which the gang vandalizes Christmas lawn ornaments is the lightest and most amusing of the movie, which has a perfect mix of entertainment value and depth.

These elements make "Treerops" relatable in that audience members will either see themselves or folks whom they know in the film. A personally observed encounter involving a small-town high school girl snubbing a male classmate, the girl walking away, the boy asking his friends why the girl was angry, and one of those lads loudly replying "she's pissed about the blowjob" would easily fit exactly as played out in "Treetops."

Brown stars as William, who is the center of the group in that he owns the used car in which they are cruising and has a crush on Alexa. In true teen spirit, Alexa essentially gets stuck with the group based on that being her best alternative for the evening.

A tame hot tub party leads to drama in the form of a news of a tragedy, a scuffle between two of the boys, and related soul searching. A subsequent scene in which the boys candidly chat while the girls are in the other room and in which William solicits a condom "just in case" has good humor and particular charm. The fact that these guys are real-life friends comes through especially strongly here and in a hilarious scene that involves arguing about a jacket.

The evening winds down with the gang bedding down at the home of Alexa; this also provides a climax (no pun intended) regrading the William/Alexa relationship following it deepening during the previous few hours. This in turn helps drives (again no pun intended) the final scenes of the film.

The reveals between the potential lovers and the others in the group provide much of the aforementioned depth. These scenes show that we often do not know either what our friends (particularly those in their teens) face on going home or what thoughts are running through their heads. We all know that this beginning of the transition to adulthood is rough, but films like this provide good reminders that the daunting nature of that challenge has caused many of us to block out much of it.

The bottom line regarding all this is that Brown succeeds by following a basic rule of story telling; write about what you know.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Treetops" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

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