The 2011 Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival wraps Thursday night with a local film that's causing a lot of buzz. "Stuck Between Stations" is set in Minneapolis, written and directed by Minneapolitans, and made by an overwhelmingly Minnesota crew.
"Stuck Between Stations" director Brady Kiernan said that he knew immediately hwen he read the movie screenplay that it was a tale he could tell.
"I mean the story is a romantic story about two people spending one night wandering the streets, and who hasn't had a night like that?" he asked.
The evening starts with a chance meeting at the First Avenue nightclub where Casper, played by Sam Rosen, gets beaten up after he tells some guys playing pool to leave a girl alone. Her name is Becky, and later she finds Casper on the sidewalk outside.
"You were trying to impress me or something?" she asks.
"No, it just made me mad, is all," he replies. "I kept seeing that one guy put his arm around you, and I could tell you didn't want him to. And then when you made that bank shot, he like picked you up and you're screaming for him to put you down."
"So you walked up to him and sucker punched him?" Becky responds.
"You think that was a sucker punch?" Casper says. "I totally gave him a second to see that I was going to swing at him. Plus I don't think any punch to the face really counts as a sucker punch."
"First of all, those are my friends, and that is a completely insane way of handling it," she says.
"The story is a romantic story about two people spending one night wandering the streets and who hasn't had a night like that?"
As they talk, it emerges that these are not strangers. Casper and Becky went to elementary and high school together, although Becky was a popular girl and doesn't remember Casper at first.
The years since school have been rough for them both. Casper's a soldier, back in town for his Dad's funeral before heading back to Afghanistan. Becky is ending an ill-considered affair with her PhD advisor. They spend the night walking and talking about their troubles while getting into some offbeat adventures around the city.
"It's a credit to Sam Rosen and to Zoe Lister-Jones, our female lead, that they are able to engage us and really make it interesting," said Kiernan.
Kiernan uses Minneapolis almost as another character, capturing famous landmarks and quaint neighborhoods. The film is even named after a song by local band "The Hold Steady."
It seems to Kiernan that all too often films made in Minnesota use the location for comedic effect or to complain about the winter.
"And just being a filmmaker born and bred in Minneapolis, I knew there was dramatic potential for other stuff," he said.
And the potential he saw was for a love story. He said that was true of Sam Rosen and Nat Bennett, who wrote "Stuck Between Stations." Both grew up in Minneapolis and, Kiernan says, brought a special native understanding.
"I think for myself and for Sam and Nat, those were kind of the places that we all fell in love. It's like we had those experiences in those places. So it felt really natural to set the film there."
And there is an appearance from local heartthrob Josh Hartnett as a tattoo-adorned bike messenger.
The film received its world premiere at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York a little over a week ago, and that's where the movie grabbed a huge fan.
"We went to the premier. We loved the movie," says Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. "It's a love story. There are two people in one of the love stories but the one I like is the one about Minneapolis."
Rybak just happened to be in New York on the night of the premier, and frankly, he's smitten.
"One of the great things about this movie is that it ain't 'Fargo.' I think we have a good sense of humor here, but I don't want Minneapolis to be a laughing stock. I want people to realize why it's so wonderful. And Brady Kiernan's done a great job of this."
Rybak is so delighted by the film he's taking his entire staff to the what's billed as a 'sneak peek' of "Stuck Between Stations" at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival.
Word seems to be out about the film. The festival has already a simultaneous extra screening of the film for Thursday night.
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