Heartland Film Festival 2015: Movie Review – Superior (2015)

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  • Narrative Feature / USA
  • Director: Edd Benda
  • Writer: Edd Benda
  • Cast: Paul Stanko, Thatcher Robinson

This review is part of my coverage of 2015’s Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis. Click here for more of my coverage of the festival. You can find my coverage of other Indianapolis area film and TV events here.

In Superior, best friends Charlie and Derek set out on a two-week long bike ride around Lake Superior in the summer of 1969. The pair are weeks away from going their separate ways (college for Charlie and Vietnam for Derek), and they’re determined to make their final adventure count.

There’s a sweetness to Charlie and Derek’s friendship in Superior that makes it easy to connect to them early on. Paul Stanko (Derek) and Thatcher Robinson (Charlie) have strong chemistry that reinforces the strength of the characters’ friendship. The movie is about how two different people can positively affect one another’s lives and leave an impression on each other. The movie succeeds in this on the strength of its leads.

Unfortunately, I had a difficult time connecting with the rest of the movie. The film established the bike ride early and fairly quickly but I didn’t really get a sense of how important it was for them. The trip is set up as a distraction for the characters before they take the next step in their lives and they make references to planning it when they were younger. I just wish the significance was emphasized more and the planning wasn’t so expedited.

The adventures Charlie and Derek have while on their trip have a variety of funny hijinks and unexpected turns. The heart of the story however, is Derek’s impending recruitment into the military at the insistence of his father. The film does well to show how the father imposes his will on Derek but it doesn’t give the viewer a sense of urgency or even the idea that this is Derek’s only option. And when Derek mentions dying in Vietnam, his humor and good nature undercuts the drama in a way that makes the more dramatic moments a little hard to connect to later in the film.

At its core, Superior is a sweet movie about two friends who help each other in different ways and complement one another’s personalities. The chemistry between the two leads carries the film well and helps keep the viewer engaged in the story. Unfortunately, some issues with the pacing and storytelling got in the way.

Obsessive Grade – 6.0/10

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