SANTA BARBARA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2023 REVIEW! Few films have hit me as hard or struck me as so perfectly written and executed as I Like Movies. It is a coming-of-age story about a movie geek set in the age of video stores, but coming from an angle you don’t expect. Days after seeing it, I’m still in awe of the mental judo moves it pulled. It is just a perfectly executed piece of art from writer-director Chandler Levack.
Lawrence (Isaiah Lehtinen) is a self-absorbed kid who mainly spends his time in high school making videos with his only friend Matt (Percy Hynes White). He dreams about eventually going to film school at NYU. However, Lawrence lands a job at Sequels, a video store similar to Blockbuster, and Matt starts dating. This causes the two best friends to drift apart. He doesn’t really respect his boss, Alana (Romina D’Ugo), who seems to be all business, devoid of any passion for film. Lawrence is the opposite: he has a boundless enthusiasm for movies, but his lack of social skills threatens his relationships, job, and future.
“…lands a job at Sequels, a video store similar to Blockbuster, and Matt starts dating. This causes the two best friends to drift apart.”
A teenage boy has an awkward relationship with a 20-something woman named Alana in a period piece with the movie world as a backdrop. Yes, this sounds a lot like Licorice Pizza. Yet as much as I love Paul Thomas Anderson (boundlessly), I Like Movies is the more sophisticated film. Where the former is a fun, bombastic spectacle of performances, this is a more subtle, human, cohesive film with a devastating and distinctive point of view.
Levack both worked in a video store and as a film critic. She’s a keen observer of the movie scene to an almost disturbing degree. For years (including the time period covered by this film), I was a reviewer for Ain’t It Cool News and regularly attended Butt-Numb-A-Thon, its associated 24-hour movie marathon. So I’ve seen my fair share of socially awkward film-obsessed man-children. At the same time, it is a community of loving, caring, supportive people and friends. Unfortunately, that world was blown apart by the actions of a narcissist who could not truly see things from other people’s perspectives. I Like Movies addresses all of this, not directly, but thematically and in a way I could never have conceived of or written. Levack makes it work perfectly. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I’ll say that the story comes at you sideways and is done honestly and with heart.
"…listen now — it is revelatory."