One of "The Double"'s two Jesse Eisenbergs takes Mia Wasikowska on a date. Credit: Dean Rogers
Over its 11 years, the Independent Film Festival of Boston (IFF Boston) has grown in scope without sacrificing focus. It’s a fest dedicated to filmmakers and cinephiles, annually feeding the omniverous hunger of the city’s film-mad. And though it unspools mere weeks before the Cannes Film Festival, when the globe’s heavyweights prefer to debut their latest works, there are always great pictures that require attention. Here are five, plus some with strong word of mouth:
"The Double": England’s Richard Ayoade was once the nasal-voiced nerd on “The IT Crowd.” But look at him now — he’s doing Dostoevsky. Granted, it’s a loose, quasi-comic take on his titular novella, concerning a meek government clerk (Jesse Eisenberg) who dreams up a more confident version of himself (Jesse Eisenberg). The anxious tone and rusty bureaucratic setting is more Kafka than the Russian legend, and the evil Eisenberg — hatching designs on the girl of the nice Eisenberg’s dreams (Mia Waikowska) — is a scream.
"Locke": Even better than Eisenberg is Tom Hardy, who’s the only person on screen in “Locke.” Set entirely in a car, it follows his construction foreman as he shuffles through one phone call after another, calmly dealing with calamity after calamity, a couple of them life-changing. Like his anal-retentive monster of a character, Hardy is scarily precise, and reiterates that his is the one of the more euphonious voices out there.
Emma Roberts plays a disaffected, bored teen in "Palo Alto." Credit: Tribeca Films
"Palo Alto": Emma Roberts is pretty terrific too in this teen drama, which is adapted from James Franco’s short story collection — though don’t let that throw you. Though Franco himself pops up, as Roberts’ horny high school coach, the material hangs with bored teens without being pervy. That’s because director Gia Coppola is a natural at doing a deep hang, and without getting judgmental as her aunt Sofia sometimes does.
Documentaries: In terms of non-fiction, “Point of Shoot” has a doozy of a subject: It hangs tight with one Matthew VanDyke, a Baltimorean who went from only child with OCD to an adrenaline junkie fighting in the 2011 Libyan revolution. Mike Myers makes his directorial debut not with a character who will overstay his welcome, but with “Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon,” a documentary on an entertainment manager and bon viver who knows everyone, and whom you can thank for Alice Cooper, along with Teddy Pendergrass, celebrity chefs and many other things (some merely alleged by Gordon himself).
Ellar Coltrane plays a kid filmed over 12 years in Richard Linklater's "Boyhood," which will play this year's Sundance Film Festival. Credit: IFC Films
Big buzz: Perhaps the most anticipated of IFFBoston's wares is Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood,” a film 12 years in the making. An ambitious project to rival the filmmaker’s “Before” movies, it’s the result of shooting the life of a kid from 6 years old to 18. Throughout, his parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) divorce, and of course age themselves. Even more jarring than watching Hawke hit middle age is watching film and filmmaking styles change dramatically.
Among the other hot tickets are the by many accounts sharp Sundance fave “Dear White People,” as well as “The Trip to Italy,” which finds Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon alternating between impersonations and fine dining in another country. The docudrama “Belle” does Jane Austen by way of race relations, with an heiress of mixed race (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) struggling to fit into 18th century English high society.
Michel Gondry does one of his occasional journeys back to France with “Mood Indigo,” which also pairs him with Audrey Tautou, as a woman with a flower growing in her lungs. Even more exciting, “We Are the Best!” finds Swedish auteur Lukas Moodysson, who’s been on a depressive jag for ages, going back to the boisterous roots of his breakthrough “Show Me Love.”
Many are also talking about "Obvious Child," a vehicle that's to catapult Jenny Slate to the big leagues. Slate is perhaps most recognizable for her fling on "Parks and Recreation," as Jean-Raulfio's even more sociopathic sister. Here, she plays a Brooklyn comedian who suffers a dumping, a firing and the arrival of a pregnancy all on Valentine's Day.