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Best Bet: "Little Athens"

Little Athens is a film that has seemed to slip underneath the radar of most critics and subsequently most festival goers. When I saw this film on Monday afternoon the theatre was half empty. Shameful. This is an absolutely brilliant film - one that needs to be seen by as many people as possible. Toronto, you have a chance to redeem yourself as Little Athens screens tonight at 9 PM at Varsity Cinema.

After I saw Little Athens I quickly logged on to IMDB.com to see what others were saying about it. Not a single vote was posted. Three days later, there are 31 votes...and Little Athens holds a user rating of 8.5 out of 10! It is easily the best film I have seen at the festival thus far; and I am hoping that some distributor has enough sense to get this puppy into theatres as soon as possible.

Little Athens is the second feature from Tom Zuber - a smart young man who, apparently, holds two graduate degrees from respected universities and also co-founded an entertainment law firm outside of Los Angeles. He is clearly talented - the writing in this film is sharp and witty without coming across as overly structured. However, I think that much of the credit should be given to Anne McCarthy and Jay Scully, the casting directors of the film. They managed to wrangle and sign some of the most impressive talents I have seen. In a movie like this, where special effects are all but absent and a genre heading is far removed, the cast is the most important vehicle for translating story to the audience. All members of the cast, I am happy to say, were firing on all cylinders during this production.

This movie follows a colorful mosaic of characters through small-town America - we see these people bump and lurch lethargically toward nothing in particular. Many of them are stuck in dead end jobs, and the reputations they developed in high school seem to precede and haunt them daily (the frightening effect of growing up in a small suburban town). With its young cast and its focus on the dark side of existence, Little Athens draws parallels to some other stellar films that have come before it - namely, Bully and Kids. But the parallels are only superficial. Little Athens contains so much more genuine and gut-busting humor. I found myself laughing out loud several times - a practice that has become rare since I developed a horrific bout of halitosis.

Little Athens screens tonight at 9PM. Run to Varsity Cinemas. Even if this sucker is sold out, stick yourself in the rush line. Even if no rush tickets are up for grabs, steal a shirt from a frail volunteer and sneak into the theatre. Even if the volunteer has terrible body odor and the shirt you stole to sneak into the movie smells a horrible smell...sit down, relax, and enjoy this wonderful movie. It will be worth it.


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