OAK CLIFF FILM FESTIVAL 2023 REVIEW! Plenty of movies and television have highlighted the magic and nostalgia of working at one’s local video store. Chandler Levack’s feature film, I Like Movies, may wash away some of the magic and grounds us in a good way.
I Like Movies is the story of 17-year-old cinephile Lawrence Kweller (Isaiah Lehtinen), who dreams of attending film school at NYU and becoming a great director. He spends all his time with his buddy, Matt (Percy Hynes White), and each weekend is Rejects Night, when the two watch Saturday Night Live.
Right out of the gate, we learn that Lawrence is a bit messed up. His father recently committed suicide. His single mother is forced to work long hours to support the family, and there’s not exactly enough money to pay for Lawrence to attend NYU. That’s the sob story.
Lawrence is also a narcissist…like a colossal narcissist. The story opens up with Matt and Lawrence’s school assignment to produce a video analyzing bias in media. Instead, Lawrence produces a comedic short about Rejects Night because he doesn’t care about the assignment.
Realizing that he has no money for NYU, Lawrence gets a job at his local video store, Sequels. His new boss, Alana (Romina D’Ugo), tries to put up with Lawrence’s BS and forms an odd relationship with him.
“Realizing that he has no money for NYU, Lawrence gets a job at his local video store…”
I Like Movies essentially documents Lawrence’s spiral downward, and his story is the heart and soul of the film. We learn not only learn that he suffers from panic attacks and mental health problems.
While attempting to make Lawrence a sympathetic character, writer/director Chandler Levack insightfully addresses issues of entitlement, narcissism, and the oppression Olympics that the youth are engaged in today…though set in the early 2000s. Levack addresses these issues in a blunt and straightforward way. So much so that I wish we could turn back the clock to 2002.
There’s a scene where Alana and Lawrence sit in an HR disciplinary meeting, and words get brutal and honest. “Eggshells” are broken all over the place. I’ll just say that meeting resonates today.
I Like Movies is very low-budget and low frills. It rests solely on Levack’s sharp and poignant script and fantastic performances by Lehtinen and D’ugo. Two scenes featuring Lawrence’s final breakdown and Alana’s heartbreaking confession about her past prove you don’t need Hollywood to make a great movie only to have someone meddle with the story you want to tell.
I Like Movies screened at the 2023 Oak Cliff Film Festival.
"…you don't need Hollywood to make a great movie only to have someone meddle with the story you want to tell."