Ned Rifle (2014)
This is the conclusion to a trilogy that's taken as long as Toy Story to tell - Henry Fool in 1997 and Faye Grim in 2006 - and whose audience must set a record for the smallest possible where the filmmaker was still able to raise the funds for another feature. (Seriously, with such a low possible chance of a return on investment, who bankrolled this film, and where I can I meet them?) Just as incredible is Hartley's consistency from the first film to the third - I didn't see Grim - considering how much he's developed over the years. He didn't burst onto the scene, style in place, like Wes Anderson, but he's just as idiosyncratic and it's grown more refined to where the script's intelligence and cleverness doesn't come off as flashy tricks but up close sleight of hand magic.
Though I hadn't seen the 2nd film, I was able to pick up the important details easy enough. I'm glad I watched the first film because it's a twisted little world with genuine surprises, and some really great characters. Ned (Liam Aiken) is actually the calm center and the least interesting person. James Urbaniak (as Simon Grim) and Thomas Jay Ryan (as Henry Fool) get the best lines, but the story fixates more and more on Aubrey Plaza's character of Susan, who attaches herself to Ned and seems to know an awful lot about the others, including (it should be mentioned) Parker Posey as Fay Grim.
I know of Aubrey Plaza but I've only seen her in Safety Not Guaranteed. She has an unusual presence, a somewhat different look, but it's very bewitching. Like a Manic Pixie Nightmare, she's unpredictable to a dangerous degree, believably helpless and destructive. Plaza doesn't steal the movie, but she makes a deep impression. I'm most impressed by Hartley's screenplay and the nuance he's able to get out of the cast (except for Posey who seems oddly checked out.)Rating: ★ ★ ★ - Good