SXSW FILM 2015
By Don Simpson | March 19, 2015
Director: Todd Rohal
Writer: Kent Osborne
Starring: Kent Osborne, Steve Little, Joe Swanberg, Jennifer Prediger, Lyndsay Hailey, Kate Herman, Sophia Takal, Laurence Michael Levine, Robert Longstreet
Considering how few people actually saw Joe Swanberg’s Uncle Kent, it is utterly absurd to believe that anyone in their right mind would produce a sequel; therefore, it seems to make perfect sense that said sequel would be directed by Todd Rohal, a director who relishes in absurdity and is total up for the double-dog dare. Besides being a vehicle for the titular star — Kent Osborne — to reprise the fictionalized version of himself and showcase his surreal writing style, Uncle Kent 2 also contemplates the role that sequels can and should play in the micro-budget film world. Early on in the freewheeling narrative, Kent attempts to pitch his sequel idea to Swanberg, presumably the most anti-sequel of all directors. Kent envisions a post-apocalyptic scenario in which he might be the last man on Earth and would therefore spend the majority of the film talking to himself (ala Tom Hanks in Castaway). Swanberg has absolutely no interest in working on the project, but does not want to dissuade Kent.
The prologue is cleverly captured by Swanberg in his token low-key dramatic style, suggesting that Uncle Kent 2 might actually be a continuation of its precursor; but once the opening credit sequence (by “Adventure Time” creator Pendleton Ward) kicks in, the baton is dutifully passed and it becomes overwhelmingly apparent that master of ceremonies is the one and only Rohal. In Rohal’s freakishly capable hands, Uncle Kent 2 descends into the nonsensical madness of a bad acid trip. Rather than following the last man scenario as suggested in Kent’s original pitch, Uncle Kent 2 opts to follow the advice of Fleetwood Mac and go its own way, following an aimless man in the midst of a mental breakdown.
Thankfully, the resulting film does not suffer the same fate of most sequels, which tend to just rehash the same content. While Uncle Kent 2 occasionally pays homage to its Mumblecore roots with naturally sprawling conversations, it always returns back to its whacked-out refrain like an irresistible earbug. (Warning: plan to have Swing Out Sister’s “Breakout” stuck in your head for a while.) One of the most outlandish sequels in the history of cinema, Uncle Kent 2 is an unbelievably bat-shit crazy mind-fuck of a film; yet somewhere beneath the boldly nightmarish visual elements is an incredibly profound and sincere existential character study.