Director Dan Mirvish’s 70’s throwback feature 18 1/2 is a bit of a departure from his last two, more intimate features, Bernard and Huey and Between Us. The story of a government transcriber (Willa Fitzgerald) happening upon ex-President Richard Nixon’s lost eighteen-and-a-half-minute gap in the tapes concerning the Watergate scandal, and her quest to release her findings to a reporter (John Magaro).
There are plenty of great performances in this film. Cameos by stars like Richard Kind and Vondie Curtis Hall round out a fantastic cast that also includes the voice talents of Ted Raimi, Jon Cryer, and Bruce Campbell. Leads Willa Fitzgerald and John Magaro shine in this film and are given little moments that lend depth to their characters.
The writing in 18 1/2 is top notch which is no surprise to anyone that’s seen any of director Dan Mirvish’s previous work, as he values solid dialogue and quirky characters. Daniel Moya, for this movie, provides a solid script that Mirvish’s actors seem to savor. The line deliveries work in every scene.
For an independent film, 18 1/2 is a really well-done period piece that sells the 1970’s era better than some studio pictures with veteran cinematographer Elle Schneider (who also makes an appearance in the movie) behind the camera lending expertise that is capped off with a score by Luis Guerra that feels like it could be lifted by any 70’s thriller.
The movie doesn’t waste any time getting to the point, and the audience is deep into the main plot within the first 10 minutes which features a great bit of dialogue and character work from Fitzgerald specifically in the restaurant scene where she meets Magaro’s character. The film runs just under 90 minutes but feels shorter than that in a good way.
Every scene feels like its own self-contained piece which lends itself well to great character work but doesn’t exactly always feel like they serve the story. It comes off a little indulgent at times. I don’t really seem to mind as I’m lost in the cinematographer, music, and actors saying Mirvish’s natural dialogue. He is at his best when his characters are conversing about seemingly nothing while hiding their true intentions or feelings, building tension until the viewer can’t stand it anymore. The third sequence, playing out while the titular 18 1/2 minutes tape plays in the fore, is a great piece of cinema. I couldn’t recommend this movie more.
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