By Juan Barquin
By Amy Nicholson
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Travis Cohen
By Juan Barquin
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Amy Nicholson
By Juan Barquin
The real magic of Lemon, though, is the poet in action. He is mesmerizing to watch; his boyish face is pure emotion as he conveys the gripping details of his life's experience. Far from a woe-is-me tale or shock opera, his verse subtly weaves the beauties of existence and the pains of loss, rendering them sometimes indiscernible. Camille Lamb
9:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Coral Gables Art Cinema (260 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables; 786-385-9689; gablescinema.com) and 3:15 p.m. Sunday, March 4, at Regal Cinemas South Beach (1120 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; 305-674-6766; regmovies.com). Tickets cost $12. Lemon Andersen and codirector Laura Brownson are scheduled to be present for Q&A sessions following the screenings.
The Strawberry Tree
You can't help but love the subjects of The Strawberry Tree, even from the opening scene. In it, we meet four residents of the Cuban village of Juan Antonio, telling us — or rather, Simone Rapisarda Casanova, the filmmaker through whose vantage point we enter their world — about the devastation that a hurricane wreaked on their former home. The expressions on their faces vacillate from pensive contemplation to uproarious guffaws as they relate the events, sometimes even using a jokey Italian accent. Their laughter is contagious, and so is their wistfulness.
Both of those things carry us through The Strawberry Tree, which after that opening scene transports us back to life in Juan Antonio in 2008, during the weeks leading up to the storm that would wipe out the town. The anticipation of that event weighs heavily throughout the film, even as children onscreen splash happily in a swimming hole or as adults swap playful insults. Only the tiniest wisp of a plot guides us through the scenes: The village prepares for Children's Day festivities, and fishermen weave nets while planning an outing to capitalize on the large number of fish typically found off Cuba's north coast before a big storm. But this documentary feels more like video art, comprised of long, static scenes detailing the tiny tasks that add up to whole lives in the village: a woman grinds coffee with a mortar and pestle; a man fixes a flat tire using a condom and a piece of wire; two villagers slaughter, skin, and butcher a goat. The phrase island time doesn't even begin to describe the pace of this doc; if filmmaking is like sex, The Strawberry Tree is utterly tantric. But knowing these scenes are all that remains of the way of life in Juan Antonio adds the levity necessary to appreciate Casanova's love letter to this lost paradise. Ciara LaVelle
9:30 p.m. Sunday, March 4, at Coral Gables Art Cinema, and 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 5, at Regal Cinemas South Beach. Tickets cost $12.
The Diary of Preston Plummer
Played by Trevor Morgan, known for his childhood roles in The Sixth Sense and The Patriot, The Diary of Preston Plummer's title character is a brilliant loner who has just graduated from an anonymous college with the honor of being one of its most gifted students in history. Estranged from his junkie mother, who appears to be his only living family member, and having made no friends during the entirety of his college years, young Plummer has nobody to celebrate with — until fate puts a dark-haired cutie named Kate (Rumer Willis) in his path. She persuades him to drive her to her parents' hotel on a beautiful Florida island, where he peels the layers off Kate's twisted family mess as he falls in love with the girl.
The cast is composed of B-list celebrities, so Florida is the biggest star. Shots of pretty coastline and tropical birds weave much of the film together, as the sound of lapping waves sometimes drowns out the characters' conversation. It's nice to have a slice of home to look at, especially throughout the film's lagging, overwrought scenes. Most of the dialogue is painfully flat and/or stiltedly delivered. Romantic scenes between the two lovebirds include many exchanges that are clearly meant to be profound personal revelations but instead come across as lame and contrived. And the sex scenes? Bring a book.
Finally, the motif that runs throughout the film — the tendency of things to fall apart — is placed so heavy-handedly you can almost see the red arrows that were probably drawn on the original screenplay. The Diary of Preston Plummer is, admittedly, a work in progress from second-time director Sean Ackerman. But frankly, it has a long way to go. Camille Lamb
7 p.m. Monday, March 5, at the Olympia Theater. Tickets cost $14.
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