I'm still sorting out my feelings on "Natural Selection," the debut feature by Robbie Pickering that screened at the festival last night and plays again at 2:20 p.m. Saturday at Riverdale. Tonally, it fits somewhere in between "Harold and Maude" and "Napoleon Dynamite" — it's a highly stylized, oddball character study. But unlike those films and much to its credit, "Natural Selection" doesn't keep the quirk from letting in real human emotion.
Large credit's surely due to Robbie Pickering, the young debut director who spoke, charmingly and confession-ally after the screening about making the movie. (It took him six years to get it made. His mom and, more metaphorically, birth theory inspired the film.) But it's the acting that really sells the film. Rachael Harris, whose name you probably don't know even though you've seen her in dozens of roles, is absolutely fantastic as Linda White, the dutiful, Christian wife of a woman married to a man who thinks it's a sin to spill his seed into her barren womb. And Matt O'Leary kills as Raymond, the loveable f-up junky who Linda believes was born from her husband's artificially inseminated sperm.
Yup, it's pretty wacky, and the first half of the movie plays like a drunk live-action version of "Looney Tunes," with Pickering hilariously beating the hell out of Raymond, who thinks he's escaping, but is really always pursuing, Linda's chirpy, oblivious Road Runner.
Then things get darker and more real. But, surprisingly, for the most part it works.
Here's betting that this SXSW winner comes away with some sort of prize at the LRFF as well.