Chandler Levack’s feature directorial debut, I Like Movies, is a beautifully made coming-of-age video store dramedy set in 2002-03.
Remember video stores? You know, the place where you went before the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, etc. I feel old by referring to this film as a period piece but it certainly is.
I Like Movies is a film that is made by a cinephile for cinephiles. It isn’t just the care that writer/director Chandler Levack puts into the film but that she draws from her own experiences. She injects her love of movies into leading character Lawrence Kweller (Isaiah Lehtinen). Lawrence is dead-set on attending NYU’s Tisch of the Arts for film school. But as is the case with any prestigious school, this is not going to be easy by any means. For starters, how is he going to afford it? He lives at home with a single mother, Terri (Krista Bridges). As such, Lawrence does what any cinephile would do at his age: get a job at the Sequels Video store. Hey, it’s either this or work at a movie theater!
Lawrence and best friend Matt Macarchuck (Percy Hynes White) are fans of SNL. In the years before The Lonely Island would breakthrough with “Lazy Sunday,” we see their short comedy film at the beginning. Meanwhile, Levack picks quite the throwback episode to reference but it’s a fun one. It’s also a tie-in to a then-upcoming Paul Thomas Anderson film, Punch-Drunk Love, in addition to Eight Crazy Nights. Like I said, I Like Movies is a film for cinephiles. There’s no shortage of references to movies from this era!
While working for Sequels, Lawrence works under his manager, Alana (Romina D’Ugo), and alongside both Shannon (Alex Ateah) and Brendan (Andy McQueen). Right off the bat, one knows how much of a pretentious asshole that Brendan is. He refuses to sell copies of Shrek, believing that it is not cinema. Does this remind you of anyone? Any Twitter conversations of late? Mind you, this film takes places during 2002-03, a few years before the Marvel takeover of cinema. But as the months pass by, Lawrence starts driving everyone, even hurting his future at the video store, not that anyone ever plans to make a career out of their high school job. In so many ways, this is a coming-of-age film. By setting the film in 2002-2003, there are so many throwbacks to that era.
This is the sort of film that will bring about nostalgia for video stores. Years before people could spend a long time deciding what to watch on streaming, they would go to the video store to pick out a VHS tape. VHS would transition into DVDs and so forth. This is a film with an impressive production design, especially by recreating a video store on a micro budget. Mind you, they were making this film during the pandemic! Let me say this about the casting: Isaiah Lehtinen crushes it. While the Kwellers are Jewish in the film, Lehtinen is not Jewish.
I Like Movies is a beautiful period piece and a fantastic feature debut for journalist-filmmaker Chandler Levack. If this film is any indication, Chandler Levack shows that Canadian film has a bright future.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Chandler Levack
CAST: Isaiah Lehtinen, Krista Bridges, Romina D’Ugo, Alex Ateah, Andy McQueen, with Dan Beirne, and Percy Hynes White
I Like Movies holds its world premiere during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival in the Discovery program. Grade: 4/5
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