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Tribeca 2011: 'Rid of Me' tries to find its niche

April 23, 2011 | 11:35 am

A low-budget "Mean Girls" is how organizers promoted "Rid of Me," James Westby's Oregon-set black comedy that had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on Friday night. Although the movie is interested in social fault lines (among adults), particularly between havoc-wreaking outcasts and complacent yuppies, the more apt comparison might be to Miranda July's "Me and You and Everyone We Know," only darker and more goth.

In the film, the well-meaning but socially awkward Meris (Katie O'Grady, who also produced) has just moved to a picturesque Portland, Ore., neighborhood with her new hunky husband, Mitch (John Keyser). But any dreams of domestic bliss are shattered when Mitch reunites with his high school friends and their snobbish queen-bee wives. The more Meris tries to endear herself to them (and Mitch), the deeper the wedge. Before long, she ends up in a punky outcast place, embarking on a kind of sideways quest, Miranda July-style, to find friendship and love.

Westby, best known for his film-director send-up "The Auteur," described to the Tribeca audience how he channeled inspiration: "I looked into the dorkwad-social-awkwardness side of myself," he said.

Tribeca film festival Indeed,with its quick-shuffle edits and exaggerated depictions of the social misfits and the popular kids, "Rid of Me" is as much a parable about fitting in as it is a piece of emotional realism.  "Everyone knows what it's like to feel alienated," added the film's costar Storm Large, who plays the prom-diva sort who tries to steal Mitch.

"Rid of Me" isn't likely to turn into a crowd-pleasing hit on par with "City Island," Tribeca's commercial success from 2009. (After "Rid of Me" premiered, a Tribeca programmer bounded on stage and proclaimed, "Now that's American independent film.") But the movie does offer the kind of quirky vision that all movie gatherings covet -- and that Tribeca, perhaps a little more than most, has struggled to find. In other words, a way for a festival to fit in.


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-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Katie O'Grady and Orianna Herrman in "Rid of Me." Credit: Tribeca Film Festival