AFI Fest 2013
By Don Simpson | November 18, 2013
Director: Mike Brune
Writer: Mike Brune
Starring: John Curran, Rhoda Griffis, Robert Longstreet, Jack McGee, Adam Fristoe, Graeme McKeon, Blake Jones, Preston Kelly
If you have ever followed the media coverage of a search for a missing child, you know just how absurd things can get. Writer-director Mike Brune cleverly plays with that absurdity in developing the bizarro universe of Congratulations!. In this story, an 8-year-old boy disappears. His name is Paul Ryan Gray (Preston Kelly). Paul’s parents (Rhoda Griffis and Robert Longstreet) are expectedly distraught and bewildered by their son’s sudden disappearance. Thankfully, veteran Detective Dan Skok (John Curran) of the Missing Persons Bureau promptly arrives at the Gray household to lead the investigation. From years of experience, Skok and his crack investigative team know that the best way to find Paul is to fully immerse themselves into the situation, so they move into the Gray’s house, making themselves at home there. The investigation continues for days…and weeks…and possibly even months…but Skok never gives up. Skok and his team are convinced that Paul is still somewhere inside the Gray house, but one question remains: Where? Surely, Paul will see one of the yellow missing person flyers or hear a police officer shouting “Paul!” and he will come out eventually…right?
There is no doubt that people say some pretty nutty things in the midst of a crisis, and Brune reveals a keen ear for that unique kind of dialogue, all of which is presented with pitch-perfect deadpan delivery by an admirable cast. Not quite as wackadoodle as Quentin Dupieux’s Wrong — which also deals with the search for a missing character named Paul — Congratulations! is grounded in some semblance of reality, allowing for some real authentic drama to seep through the walls of yellow missing person flyers.