on the way back from dinner on november 7th, sophie (courteney cox) asks her boyfriend hugh (james legros) to go in the corner store for sweet snacks. meanwhile, we see her on her cell and adjusting the car radio while she waits in the car. a robber enters.
this much i know happened for sure in the movie november, directed by greg harrison, whose only other director credit is the one-night-at-the-rave late 90s movie groove. other things we can be certain is that she is a photography instructor in what seems like a college in chinatown, an affair, a meal with her mom played by anne archer (body of evidence), a meeting with her shrink played by former snl-er nora dunn, and a cop on the case played by nick offerman from parks and recreation. with legros’ guest role on friends, this is quite a nbc reunion. although it’s hard to believe that monica would not have any snacks lying around her car or her home.
after the above mentioned brief prologue, the film alternates between what happened that night (november 7th), sophie’s dealing with the event, and the flashbacks of sophie and hugh’s relationship. the film is also divided into three segments: denial, despair, and acceptance, three of the five stages of grief.
knowing the structure beforehand, i have to say the film is surprisingly effective. each segment focus on a certain discovery/aspect. it’s as close as contemporary american indies can get to kieslowski, run lola run, time code, french new waves, or wong kar-wai. it’s about on par with doug liman’s go, but not quite as good as the others because the three segments seem random and the script is not as tight as those mentioned above. courteney cox, with glasses and grey streak, is perfect as the grieving protagonist. a mousier and darker monica if you will.
if you are one of those people who cannot stand subtitled films, i would not recommend this. since american films tend to require reason, logic, cause, and effect. even in “edgy” indies like memento or the usual supects, a concrete narrative can still be found. when this film is over, not everything will be explained (though the acceptance segment is what i feel the closest to the truth).
when random act of violence/tragedy occurs in real life, we seldom find out the real causes or reasons other than the pop psychology from “experts” on the news, and for those affected, a mere explaination (they were bullied, they hate us, they are jealous of our freedom…etc) would never be logical enough. there is also the helplessness feeling of preventing it from happening again. in the end i do not feel tricked or even the comparison to david lynch or m. night shyamalan like most critics feel. it did not seem purposely pretentious or mysterious nor did i feel like the filmmaker was trying to be clever. it’s about what one would expect of a film when the tagline is “the truth lies outside the frame.”
it’s more about exploration and meditation on the subject of grieve and death. in fact, the final segment, acceptance, was rather moving especially when the usual suspect-esque montage was finally revealed. some may argue that it’s too little too late, but i think it came at just about the right time. while wishing the entire running time can have that effect on me, like the movies mentioned above, it is nevertheless a well done film exercise/experiment.
november 7th…11/7…it’s 7/11 backward! coincidence? hey it makes more sense than the 666 upside down is 999 and add 1 it’s 1999 end of days crap.
this is one of the few films i can think of where the premise of the movie actually works well with digital cameras, rather than feeling gimmicky or for economical reason. the difference in colors for each segment enhanced, rather than being the main focus of, each one. if november was from any other country, no one would have called it artsy, pretentious or experimental. certain techniques used by harrison would remind you of the opening credit of se7en, pi, and some nine inch nails/tool music videos.
the one major complain i have with novmeber is that wherever you’re watching it, the running time is listed as 73 minutes while the film itself is only about 63. yes, the end credit crawls slowly for ten whole minutes.