AUSTIN - On one of the first few days of the Austin Film Festival, I caught a screening for a small slice-of-life film, "Holding Patterns," starring Freddie Highmore, Christopher Meloni and Odeya Rush.
"Holding Patterns," directed and written by Jake Goldberger, tells the story of a Charlie -- played by Highmore. He's a man in his 20s who lives at home with his parents and works as the assistant manager at the local movie theater. In the beginning of the film, he's prompted by his best friend Ben -- played by Haley Joel Osment -- to approach the barista he has his eye on, a girl named Amber who is played by Rush.
After many visits to the coffee shop, Charlie finally, and awkwardly, introduces himself to Amber, claiming to return keys that aren't his. He succeeds in getting her to respond, but then fails to invite her to the party he and his friends are attending later that night.
We soon discover that Amber has a steady boyfriend, who is an up-and-coming track star, much to Charlie's dismay. She also has plans to attend New York University in the fall, a situation that's opposite from Charlie's. But not all hope is lost: Both Charlie and Amber quickly develop a friendship, and their circle of friends connect with each other as well.
As Charlie continues to pursue Amber, he also faces problems at home. His estranged father named Howard, who is played by Christopher Meloni, comes back into town and asks to stay with him, his mother, stepfather and brother. Against his mother's wishes, he allows Howard to stay in his room for a few days while he's in between jobs.
"Holding Patterns" holds a lot of mystery throughout the course of the film. We learn that Charlie has dreams of his own, that at one point of his life, he was on track to becoming a chef. But what caused him to stay at home and quit pursuing his dream? The answer eventually reveals itself. But in the meantime, we're left to wonder. And that's a good thing too, because it unfolds naturally.
At times, the pacing of the movie is slow, but I found myself invested into each of these characters, especially Highmore and Rush. You get a sense of the emotional distress both are under as they try to break free from the patterns they constantly live in, and as the boundaries of their friendship blur due to a growing intimacy between them.
One of the standout characters of the film is Amber's cousin Jack who is played by Jake Abel. He provides comedic relief as he, along with the rest of Charlie and Amber's friends, also seek to do more with their lives. This central theme brings you back to that all too familiar period in your life where you're unsure of where you're going and what lies ahead.
And with a genre such as this one -- where boy meets girl -- it doesn't fall into cliches either, which I loved.The performances in "Holding Patterns" are organic. The storyline is relatable. As an added bonus, the soundtrack is fantastic: Think coffee shop music paired with the songs you can listen to in your car with the windows down.
"Holding Patterns" is a refreshing film that doesn't play out like you'd expect, and because of that, I encourage you all to go see it too.
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