SXSW 2014 Review: Wild Canaries
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Wild Canaries
Director: Lawrence Michael Levine
Cast: Sophia Takal, Lawrence Michael Levine, Alia Shawkat, Annie Parisse, Jason Ritter, Kevin Corrigan
World Premiere | Little Teeth Pictures
Not Rated | 98 Minutes
Release Date: March 8, 2014

Barri (Sophia Takal, V/H/S) and Noah (writer-director Lawrence Michael Levine), a newly engaged couple, are saddened by the death of their elderly downstairs neighbor, Sylvia.

Though Noah sees nothing unusual about the old woman’s death, Barri suspects foul play and sets out to investigate the murder, enlisting her roommate Jean (Arrested Development‘s Alia Shawkat) to join her on a reconnaissance mission to trail a possible suspect. When the investigation uncovers unsettling secrets throughout the apartment building, suddenly everyone seems like a reasonable suspect.

Co-starring Jason Ritter, Annie Parisse, and Kevin Corrigan, Wild Canaries is essentially The ‘Burbs, but with hipsters in Brooklyn. When Barri and Jen are in investigation mode, Wild Canaries references ’30s mystery-comedy films like The Thin Man, while the action sequences – namely a chase through (and on top of) a warehouse in Red Hook – are straight out of ’70s thrillers like The French Connection and The Parallax View.

Lawrence Michael Levine is the writer, director, and star of the 2010 film, Gabi on the Roof in JulyGreen, which played at South by Southwest in 2011. In Wild Canaries, Levine’s character is a kind of cowardly, begrudging hero – think Bob Hope meets Woody Allen – who is hopelessly inept when it comes to new technology and today’s fast-paced world.

As for Takal, her character in reminiscent of Barbara Streisand in What’s Up Doc? or Myrna Loy in The Thin Man. She’s a bit loopy, and becomes absolutely obsessed with the idea that one of her neighbors is a murderer – she begins dressing like a hipster version of Carmen Sandiego, decked out in a trench coat, sunglasses, and an oversized fedora.

Takal serves as the Mulder to Levine’s Scully – one is certain, the other is skeptical. It’s this interplay that keeps the story going forward, with Barri constantly tossing out what appear to be wild, absurd claims or “clues,” to which Noah always has a logical explanation.

It’s nice to see a screwball, Scooby Doo-style murder mystery with such strong roles for women. Shawkat, Parisse, and Takal steal the spotlight away from Levine, Corrigan, and Ritter at every turn. Overall, Wild Canaries is a fun, charming screwball comedy that effortlessly balances humor and suspense while telling a story that is both fantastic and yet grounded in reality. Check out the trailer below and check out Levine’s film if you get the chance!


WILD CANARIES Clip – SXSW 2014 from Sophia Takal on Vimeo.

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