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The Same River Twice (Not Rated) (2004)

Next Life Films

Official Site

Director: Robb Moss

Producer: Robb Moss

Rating:

This is one of the first films I have thoroughly enjoyed in a long, long while—and if you think I’m exaggerating you can check out my other reviews. I hate to sound like a Hallmark made-for-TV movie ad, but The Same River Twice is beautiful, funny, and touching. I refuse to use the word “poignant” because that’s more overdone than an Old Navy ad campaign, but yeah, this one’s a keeper.

In The Same River Twice director/producer Robb Moss juxtaposes the footage he took of a summer boating trip in 1978 with a documentary following the current lives of five of his fellow river-rats. Barry, Danny, Jeff, Cathy, and Jim allow Moss to record every aspect of their 40-something lives, even the not-so-pleasant moments, like when Barry’s wife toys with the idea of voting against his mayoral campaign in order to keep him home more. With the exception of Jim, who seems to have changed only in age over the past 20 years, the characters have all merged into the reality of the structured, mundane world. At the beginning of the film Barry takes us on a tour of his impressive medicine cabinet, pointing to a mountain of bottles and saying, “These are outdated prescriptions that we don’t use and that we don’t throw away.” It seemed quite amazing that only minutes earlier I was watching his naked body rowing down a river.

The footage from 1978 does feature nudity, but after the first initial “Hello!” it just seems a natural and unremarkable part of the film. The characters themselves don’t seem embarrassed by their uninhibited behavior, only amused. “My breast,” laughs Danny at one shot, “I recognized it.” Moss’s burgeoning talent as a filmmaker is apparent even in the early footage, which treats his friends’ bodies and behavior like art. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what an undoctored, soundtrackless film feels like, but the relative quietness of the older shots paired with the primitive beauty of the Grand Canyon is so fascinating that you find yourself looking forward to each segment.

Although this movie is not one of the currently popular “mockumentaries,” it still managed to make me laugh the entire way through. The comparison between “now” and “then” is an entertaining contrast, of course, but the real humor lies in the characters themselves. Their rueful attitudes toward themselves and open honesty make these five men and women more engaging than any script-bound characters. Many times I forgot that there wasn’t a script involved, simply because the monologues and dialogues are so funny and moving. But neither the humor nor the pain is contrived, which makes the movie just that much more appealing.

Even if you’re not a fan of documentaries, The Same River Twice carries just as much entertainment value as a more mainstream film. The pace of the movie is leisurely but by no means slow, and the hour and a half that you do spend in the theater is thoroughly engaging. At the end of my screening, the people around me stood up to clap. I’m not ashamed to admit that I stood up with them.

— Emily Younger

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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