JR (Carmen Altman, whose twitter reveals that she’s a stand-up comedian, and that yes she’s the daughter of Robert Altman but not THAT Robert Altman) has just broken up with her professor/boyfriend and enlists her brother (writer/director/star Perry) to help her pick up some stuff from her apartment. I think they go from Pennsylvania to Boston – something like that – annoying the hell out of each other the whole way, berating each other’s lives and careers (he writes copy for focus group presentations, she is an aspiring news anchor). He has a Michael Cera voice with a relentless rapid-fire delivery, eventually gets in a minor fight with her Henry Chunklet-looking ex and helps carry her two measly cardboard boxes away. Then they have sex in their hotel room.
Shot in grainy black-and-white with no particular style besides “cheap indie”. Katy seemed to find it exasperating, says she saw the incest bit coming since the beginning. The dialogue is mostly funny, but otherwise I’m not sure why this is getting much attention – maybe funny dialogue is enough.
We soon begin to recognize the real pain these two are carrying around. Their pathologies, the film argues, are unique; those all around them are crushingly typical. By the end of The Color Wheel, J.R. and Colin are somewhere well beyond the reach of cultural or cinematic domestication, as is the film itself.
Alex’s films are designed to be hard to like. They are about people and scenarios and environments that are deeply offputting, about humor-in-inverted-commas that makes you feel a bit unclean. Part of what I find deeply intriguing about The Color Wheel is that for so much of the first half of the film, I want to get away from it.
Perry had author Philip Roth in mind.
People say you can’t make an honest film from one of Roth’s novels because it would be nothing but people talking, characters who only live inside their own heads, followed by unforgivable and reprehensible sex. Which is basically exactly what The Color Wheel turned out to be. … I think cynicism is sorely lacking from independent films. There is an edge that is missing, which confuses me because most of us are making films with no stakes. You can get away with anything when you raise your own budget as a passion project so I’m not sure why people seem unwilling to push things in a more aggressive direction.