The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Cold Weather

If I had to put Cold Weather into a category, I'd probably have to coin the term "mumblecore mystery." The problem is, I hate that term. The word mumblecore brings up stereotypes of whiny characters self-indulgently contemplating themselves. This film is much better than that, although it does share with the mumblecore movement an interest in character above plot. When Cold Weather is over, you'll likely have a few questions about some loose ends left dangling, but you'll know exactly what the ramifications are for the hero.

Cris Lankenau plays Doug, a slacker who abandons a potential career in forensic science and instead returns to his hometown of Portland, where he gets a job at an ice factory. His family generally laments this decision; only his sister Gail (Trieste Kelly Dunn) even remotely understands his need to figure things out. Not long after coming home, Doug befriends a co-worker named Carlos (Raul Castillo) and runs into his old girlfriend, Rachel (Robyn Rikoon), for whom some feelings clearly still exist. All this occupies the first half hour of Cold Weather. The characters are quirky and interesting, yet you wonder where the film is going with them.

Then the mystery kicks in: Rachel abruptly goes missing. Sensing that something is amiss, Doug remembers the Sherlock Holmes mysteries he loved as a kid. He decides to play detective. He even buys a pipe, figuring that if it helped Holmes to concentrate, it'll do the same for him. With the help of Carlos and Gail, he begins following clues, which lead him to a seedy motel, a shadowy man in a cowboy hat, and a startling secret about his former lover.

While it's never expressly stated, we sense that, for the first time in a long time, Doug is fully engaged in something. This is what Cold Weather is really about. We know from those early scenes that Doug feels lost in life. He doesn't know what he wants. Without even realizing it, playing detective gives him a purpose that was previously missing. Cris Lanenau is very good in the role, believably projecting both Doug's initial apathy and his eventual invigoration. He is matched by Trieste Kelly Dunn, who is delightfully droll as the sister who manages to get equally caught up in the situation.

Best of all, writer/director Aaron Katz has crafted a trail of clues that is actually pretty clever. There's humor in certain moments (such as when Doug and Carlos realize they need to search two motel rooms instead of one), and intelligence in others. I liked the way the characters crack a code, and also how they determine where to find the man in the cowboy hat. The clues actually make sense, so that the unraveling of the mystery really does feel as though an industrious amateur could carry it out. The cleverest scene finds Doug and Gail improvising a getaway after following Mr. Cowboy Hat to a café. I love movies where the characters think on their feet. Seeing smart people on screen makes me smile, and I know I grinned watching how they outsmart the guy.

Cold Weather doesn't really need to tie up its loose ends, but I wish it had. The mystery is interesting enough that I wouldn't have minded being clued in on the "whys" of it. Even without 100% of the facts, this is a witty, funny movie about a guy inadvertently stumbling upon a chance to use his gifts - the gifts he maybe forgot, or never knew, he had.

( out of four)

Cold Weather is unrated but contains some nudity and language. The running time is 1 hour and 37 minutes.