Let's start with the title, as we often do. Fanny, Annie & Danny, it's called. And I wasn't sure what to make of that. Couldn't decide whether it was cute or irritating. Figured probably a little of both, and on purpose. Sure enough.
But hang on. This is sounding churlish, and that's not how I mean it. I just wanted to give you a sense of how a wearied, movie-saturated mind sometimes can operate.
Which is this. Try as a critic might, he may sometimes fail to meet a film on it's own terms. He may sometimes be unable to resist hoping that he's about to see, say, some weird, funny, post-modern movie mashup involving the watchful young Swedish damsel from Bergman's Fanny & Alexander, little orphan Annie, and Danny Torrance, the sensitive, psychic, Nicholson-tormented kid in The Shining.
No such luck here, but no problem either, because Fanny, Annie & Danny just went ahead and met me on its own terms. Its own terms are weird and funny, and maybe a little post-modern, and solemn too, but actually more original and worth a damn than my tired mashup would have been anyway.
And as a matter of fact, those are the names of children, and the three main characters in San Francisco writer-director Chris Brown's third feature, played by Jill Pixley, Carlye Pollack and Jonathan Leveck, respectively. As Brown evidently understands, it takes a certain kind of mother (memorably played here by Colette Keen) to name her children Fanny, Annie and Danny. The kind, perhaps, who might also greet the news of her daughter's engagement like so: "Jesus Christ, it's not some goddamn moon landing, it's just a f***in' wedding! I didn't have any goddamn whoopdedo wedding. Your dad and I went to city hall a day before he shipped out. Big deal. Who does she think she is?"
It is possible that their father (George Killingsworth) had some say in the naming of the children, but unlikely. Making good on its implied promise to limn the cute-irritating continuum, the movie introduces its titular trio as striving young(ish) adults, enduring the indignities of unkept secrets, lost jobs and lodgings, purloined severance checks, and the obligatory annual Christmas reunion at their parents' Berkeley home. Then, at once affectionately and methodically, it piles on the home-for-the-holidays dysfunction, Berzserkely style.
Brown wrings more than a little quirky appeal from his lo-fi production values and engaging performances. As for his wallop of an ending, I'm not sure what to make of that either, but I know enough not to give it away. I also know that Fanny, Annie & Danny will be making the rounds at three Bay Area film festivals this fall: Mill Valley, Carmel, and the San Francisco Film Society's Cinema by the Bay. See it with family! If you dare.
Fanny, Annie & Danny plays at 7:30pm Sunday, October 10, 2010, at the Sunset Cultural Center in Carmel; 8:45pm Wednesday, October 13, 2010, at the Rafael Film Center in San Rafael; and 7pm Friday, November 5, 2010, at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco. For more information, visit fannyannieanddanny.com