The screwball comedies of the ’30s and ’40s are hard to imitate; today’s actors, with few exceptions, just aren’t trained to talk or move or pratfall with the speed and precision they once were. The manic new indie “Wild Canaries,” starring real-life couple Sophia Takal and Lawrence Michael Levine (who wrote/directed), doesn’t try to nail all of the subgenre’s tropes, but its love is more than skin deep. In fact, it’s essentially a loose, loving remake of Woody Allen’s screwballish “Manhattan Murder Mystery,” with Takal and Levine as a couple, here young and about to marry, who suspect their neighbors of foul play, all while fending off potential affairs.
The scholar Stanley Cavell described certain screwballs, notably “The Awful Truth,” as “comedies of remarriage.” That applies to “Wild Canaries”’ plot, which finds Takal’s breathless, excitable bluster matching perfectly with Levine’s easily flustered ticking time bomb. Both Levine and Takal hail from the micro-budget indie scene; check out her “Green” and his “Gabi on the Roof in July.” As such, “Wild Canaries” is a retro homage that stays very much its own thing.