You know a movie is really good when someone tells you about it in advance and your response is, “I’m not watching that,” but after you’ve actually screened it, you’re totally blown away. That was my reaction to writer/director Allison Burnett’s Ask Me Anything. Despite the fact that the film violates screenwriting and filmmaking rules, for which I normally pillory filmmakers. But somehow the movie works; the rules were violated and it somehow works anyway.
The quality must have started with the script, because it attracted star power to play supporting roles for 24-year-old lead Britt Robertson (Under the Dome, The Secret Circle), who plays 18 year old Katie Kampenfelt. Her co-stars include Christian Slater (Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, Mind Games), Justin Long (The Lookalike, Live Free or Die Hard), Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now, The West Wing) and Robert Patrick (Terminator II: Judgement Day, The Unit).
Ask Me Anything begins with what would seem to be a humdrum story. After being admitted to college, Katie decides to take a year off from academia to experience the real world, find herself and, to help this process, she writes a blog. I hear you yawning already.
The character of Katie and Britt Robertson’s portrayal of her are anything but humdrum.
Katie is a force of nature. She never walks when she can run, she emotes, and she keeps looking on the bright side — even when she shouldn’t. I found myself often not liking what the character does, but liking and worrying about the character anyway. And she’s funny: to her mother: “You underestimate my powers, Earthling”.
Katie’s exploration of life is full-speed-ahead reckless. As the story progresses, her foolish decisions and thoughtlessness begin to catch up with her and hint at mysteries in her past. She records all of this in her blog, gaining a following that I wish I had. But then, all bloggers in movies get massive followings almost instantly.
The cinematography contributes to the story in non-obtrusive but important ways.
Katie has a tendency to flashback to her childhood when she approaches having an orgasm. (Besides orgasms, there is profanity and nudity, too, in this unrated film). These flashbacks appear in fuzzy 8MM frames. If you do the math, you’ll realize that the childhood of someone 18 years old today would not have been preserved on 8MM, but as a visual motif, it works. Besides, I’ve never been inside the brain of a woman approaching orgasm, so who can say for sure?
Another, motif is that we often see Katie through windows. This could have multiple interpretations which reveal themselves towards the end of the film, so I won’t go into it here, but watch for it.
Britt Robertson, who has been acting since she was ten years old, has already won a best actress award for her performance as Katie at the Nashville Film Festival. She’ll win more.
I also enjoyed Robert Patrick’s portrayal of Katie’s dad. He has sclerosis of the liver and is a foul mouthed old man, but he loves his daughter. For Patrick’s sake, I hope that beer belly was a prosthetic, but, whether the belly has grown or not, his acting chops definitely have grown a lot since he played the T-1000 Terminator Cop.
Early in the film Katie confides to her blog readers that her lover is a professor of film “…at a really good community college, so we only watch serious cinema.” I think Ask Me Anything qualifies as “serious,” funny, and touching cinema, so when it opens on December 19, theatrically in Los Angeles and on VOD, you should watch it. Then, blog about it.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00DII0MGI,1476735476,B00M9T2FK8,0061670855,0061671355]