Movie Review: Northwood Pie (2020)

A tale of existential dilemma seen through the lives of the workers of a suburban pizza joint.

Directed by: Jay Salahi.

Starring: Todd Knaak, Annika Foster, Sean Lamping, Paul LeSchofs, Trevor Larson, Amir Malaklou.

Country: United States

Genre: Drama, comedy.

Running time: 74 minutes.

Whether you grew up in a small town or a big city, there’s something universal about feeling out of place. Call it “teenage angst” or an immature manner of dealing with things, it’s already acceptable as a stage we all have to go by. It doesn’t have to do with the stereotypes in school, or families. It has to do with the fact that all of us have to grow up, become adults and deal with that mysterious concept that everyone confirms, but so far there’s no outline for it. People tell you “you have to do something”, “become someone”, but the lack of definition of that goal is frustrating.

Northwood Pie deals with this “ritual” in a wonderful, humble, and honest way. It’s a movie that could be diagnosed as unnecessary in this grand sea of loud and visually stunning movies we are submitted to on a daily basis. However, sometimes when we are certainly not in search of advice, a movie comes by that makes us land in a reality we need to confront. Northwood Pie felt like that. It’s a comedy that does not follow basic standards, at some point it delves in over characterization, but its beautiful premise is followed until the end.

Crispin is a young guy that doesn’t do much with his life. When he’s not being beat in board games by his little sister, he spends time with his friends, dealing with their issues and forgetting he maybe has some of his own. Community college is a theme not explored in his daily conversations, and yet it’s like a shadow he cannot stop seeing over him. His solution: finding a job that could maybe help him run away from this town. A local rundown pizza place accepts him as the new employee, and an unmotivated Crispin begins what could be the starting of… something.

Don’t get me wrong, Northwood Pie is not entirely serious in its development. Its comedy outbursts are pretty effective, even when they feel uncomfortable for some of the characters; these coworkers, these friends, exist somewhere. Crispin is a mixture of cigarettes, millennialism, and Woody Allen. He’s the result of growing up with a very “diverse” group of friends. Their conversations go way beyond punchlines and physical comedy. The intensity comes from the awkward side of simplicity, and this is where Northwood Pie could resemble indies such as Clerks, or even Dazed and Confused. I’d rather keep them separate as Northwood Pie goes towards an honest and more dramatic third act, one that perfectly reflects the revelation Crispin deserves for himself.

Even when the movie shows some biographic hints (Northwood Pizza is actually a real place in California, where the writer worked and served as the shooting location), and displays great footage of the place the movie takes place in, it never deflects from its main course. Northwood Pie could be uninspired indie cinema if the story weren’t so important. The screenwriter insists on staying within the boundaries of the mundane. Premature death, heartbreaks, and the consequences of growing up, are cleverly present in the movie, but they never become main subjects, as Northwood Pie could be a collection of experiences we always read or hear about.

I grew up in a very small town in Latin America where pizza joints were not common. But the personality of the nocturne activity shown in Northwood Pie resembles what I used to do with friends. As I mentioned before, these discussions, problems, and even solutions, are somehow universal. A fantastic script can resolve the language barrier and make Northwood Pie a very strong affirmation for a message not commonly explained by the young (and rather omitted from mainstream cinema): our problems are relevant, and so are the solutions we come up with.

Star rating: ***

A trailer

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