‘American Animals’ opens festival

Exclusive to MeierMovies, April 7, 2018

One of this year’s Sundance darlings, American Animals (3 ¼ stars on 0-5 scale) opened the 2018 Florida Film Festival last night. The second feature film from writer-director Bart Layton, Animals bombastically announces that it’s not based on a true story – it IS a true story. And thanks to its half-documentary, half-narrative-fiction format, that announcement is spot-on. Although that unique structure – think Warren Beatty’s Reds – might seem gimmicky at first, it grows on you, despite some inconsistent pacing. And by the film’s end, you have a clear understanding of 10 people: the five leads in the fictional part of the film and their five real-life (non-actor) counterparts. You might also come to embrace the movie’s playful, meta-theatrical, deconstructionist sensibility.

Animals focuses on a heist gone wrong in Lexington, Kentucky, but it’s less about the robbery itself and more about how the events affected the lives of the four men who planned the job (and the victim). The film stars Barry Keoghan (who was brilliant in Dunkirk and The Killing of a Sacred Deer), Evan Peters, Jared Abrahamson and Blake Jenner. The latter was in attendance last night and participated in a brief Q&A with Enzian Theater Executive Director David Schillhammer following the film. (They are pictured below, with Jenner on the left.) American Animals will not have another screening at the festival, but look for it in theaters later this year.

The festival runs through April 15. For more information, visit www.floridafilmfestival.com. And be sure to check out all the festival coverage on this site and at OrlandoWeekly.com.