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So, I recently watched Shimmer Lake, a Netflix original drama/comedy. When the trailers for the film came out earlier this summer I was immediately intrigued. The film featured a cast of typically comedic actors such as Rainn Wilson, Adam Pally, Ron Livingston and John Mitchell Higgins. I was pretty sure that the film would be more "Fargo" - like, a dark comedy with a quirky bunch of characters. This is not necessarily the end result of Shimmer Lake.
The main hook of Shimmer Lake is the storytelling method, the story of the crime is told in reverse. It starts on Friday and ends with the bank robbery on Tuesday telling each day's events in between. This is an interesting and worthy note to a film that otherwise does not live up to the talent behind the project. I would go so far as to say that the ultimate explanation at the end (beginning) of the story is what kept me interested. The other elements of humor just fall flat.
Written and directed by Orien Uziel, the film starts on Friday with Andy running with the stolen money. He is pursued by his brother, Sheriff Zeke Sikes and his deputy, Reed. Benjamin Walker plays the sheriff, a unfunny straight man if I have ever seen one to Adam Pally's sarcastic deputy. We slowly learn the events that took place on Tuesday with the addition of the FBI agents (played by Rob Corddry and Ron Livingston). The bank, owned by the local judge played by John Michael Higgins, was robbed by Ed (Wyatt Russell) and Andy (Rainn Wilson) on Tuesday. The robbery was the plan of Steph (Stephanie Sigman), who is Ed's wife. As the plot continues to move backward we learn about the dark tragedy that brought the troupe of thieves together: a meth lab explosion that killed Steph's son, Ed Jr. The trial that occurred later was a scandal that led many people to believe justice had not been served.
This is a crucial moment in the storyline, but the tone of the movie has too much levity for the tragedy to reach its full weight and importance. Uziel's screenwriting and pacing of the film are really what shines in Shimmer Lake. The layering of the storylines is really done well, you see scenes that answer questions from the day before and it's like a backward story with holes. That was the most interesting and well-done aspect of this film.
The most disappointing aspect of Shimmer Lake was the lack of humor. This might have been presumptuous, but I thought the lineup of funny actors would lead to a bit more, well, funny moments. The jokes and lines just fell flat. One unfunny gag is Zeke's just absolutely brutal opinion of his sister-in-law's cooking. There was an overall overdone obsession with her cooking. Another running gag that was slightly more successful in my opinion was the fact that Reed the deputy got designated to the back of the squad car by everyone from Ed to the sheriff's grammar school age niece Sally. The script just doesn't show these obviously talented actors in the best light.
Overall it was worth watching Shimmer Lake if only for the unique storyline and reverse chronological storytelling. I enjoyed seeing screenwriting work from Uziel and the ending of Shimmer Lake shone as a high point even if the rest of the work was a bit muddled.