SXSW 2017 Review: Fits and Starts is Comedically Charming and Poignant
One of the most buzzed about indie films premiering at SXSW was Laura Terruso‘s Fits and Starts. For those unaware of the name, Terruso co-wrote the film, Hello, My Name is Doris alongside Michael Showalter back in 2015. Fits and Starts focuses on David Warwik (Wyatt Cenac), a struggling writer who is trying to get his first novel published. While David struggles to get his writing career off the ground, his wife Jennifer (Greta Lee) has already achieved literary success. The story follows David and Jennifer as they make their way to a publisher’s salon in an upscale suburb in Connecticut.
Fits and Starts is my favorite kind of film to see at a film festival. It is a small passion project with a lot of heart and love. The story is a smart, refreshing and thought-provoking look at a married couple with similar dreams and aspirations. For someone who runs a website with my wife and friends, this story hit really close to home. In fact, I think this is a great film for anyone who has ever been in a relationship or is married to someone with similar dreams and ambitions. I couldn’t help but think about a lot my friends and colleagues while watching the film and how so many of them can relate to this story in one way or another.
David and Jennifer are two creative people trying to support one another while struggling with each other’s shortcomings. I feel like while the film is incredibly funny at times, the message that Terruso conveys in this story is very true to life. As a husband, I often find myself happy for my wife’s success, but it also doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with finding a good balance supporting her career as well as my own. The idea of being overshadowed by your significant other is something that I think a lot of creative people face on a daily basis. This film tackles that subject matter in a very humorous way while also being incredibly poignant.
The first half of the film is spent building the relationship between Jennifer and David. You can tell that they do love each other but they are both struggling to find a balance. Jennifer has a book on the New York Times Best Seller List while David can’t seem to find anyone that will compliment or read his novel; let alone publish it. The second half of the film focuses on the couple being separated when Jennifer tries to find a liquor store without telling David where she is going. This causes David to panic which gives him time to reflect on his own shortcomings while regaining control of his creative goals.
The chemistry between Cenac and Lee is spot-on. These two seem like a real life married couple with believable issues. I love the scenes where they are together and just bicker back and forth about little insignificant things. I love that this script was so well-aware of the pointless arguments that occur between couples. It is so refreshing to see a film that fully acknowledges that sometimes married couples argue over silly little things as a way to overshadow bigger issues that are ultimately the real cause of the argument or disagreement.
There are several scenes throughout the film that work simply due of how well-written the script is. I loved the scene where David begins to yell at Jennifer because they don’t have enough sex. The aftermath of this scene was even funnier because it was one of those situations where you can’t help but think, of course, that would happen. Other moments that stood out include several of the scenes at the publisher’s salon with the guests performing their material or telling stories.
As both the writer and director, I love that Terruso wasn’t afraid to poke fun at creative types. The people at the salon were an eclectic mix of people that seemed lost in their own world. The fact that Terruso had characters such as a critic inform David that he should think about changing his last name felt very true to life. I found that making most of the party guests come off as self-centered worked to showcase just how snooty certain creative types can be.
All in all, Fits and Starts is a delightful little indie gem with a lot of heart and passion. It feels almost like an inside look at a marriage between two creative personalities. The themes of being true to oneself and being overshadowed by others are both things that many creative artists struggle with on a daily basis. The dialogue is sharp and funny while each scene is well-crafted and planned out. I look forward to seeing what future projects Laura Terruso has planned. With the success of Hello, My Name is Doris and now Fits and Starts, Terruso is definitely a talent worth keeping an eye on.
Scott “Movie Man” Menzel’s rating for Fits and Starts is a 8 out of 10.