My first film of the 25th annual Austin Film Festival just might be my favorite comedy of the year. Antiquities, directed by Daniel Campbell, is filled to the brim with memorable characters, quotable lines, and a heartfelt message of being true to yourself. I am honestly surprised, because I didn’t expect much from this indie film, but it proved to be on par with some of the bigger comedies this year, like Game Night.
After the death of his father, Walt (Andrew J. West) visits the town his father grew up in to learn more about him but gets in way over his head. This is made clear from the opening scene, when he decides to stay with his over-cheerful relatives. When I write “over-cheerful” I can not stress this enough. His aunt (Melanie Haynes), uncle (Jeff Bailey), and cousin (Jason Thompson) are the type of happy that will make you more annoyed than anything, but you can’t help but love them for it. Would you be surprised if I told you his family was probably the most mentally stable characters in this film?
Walt eventually heads down to the antique store his dad used to work in before his death, and this is where the film truly blossoms. The store is filled with booths owned by some of the most eccentric characters to grace a comedy. Let’s break down this crazy cast: you have an overweight man who likes to believe he is fit, a woman obsessed with plastic surgery, another man who has turned his booth into his childhood Christmas, an older gentleman who alters famous battles of the Civil War so the Confederate always wins, a store manager who is stressed out by his wife and mother of the Civil War lunatic, and of course the attractive love interest who lost a loved one as well. After being bombarded by this diverse cast of characters, Walt is offered a job and learns more about his father.
Furthermore, watching Walt interact with all these characters for the first half of the film provides countless laughs, but the film proves it is more than just randomness by making the characters you thought were bizarre into relatable human beings. They have a genuine realness to them that makes them relatable to not just us but to Walt.
Campbell uses Walt as the normal guy to contrast against everyone’s craziness, while never losing focus of the narrative: the mystery of Walt’s father and what he meant to his son before and after his death. There is some predictability to the point I would call it cliché in the way the plot progresses, but there is a certain point where that doesn’t matter anymore. The performances push through, and you are left with a satisfying conclusion.
Antiquities falls into some holes with its predictable plot, but the amazing performances by the cast bundled with some heartfelt moments allow it to climb back into one of my favorite comedies of this year.
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