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Daddy Longlegs: The Kids Are Not All Right

Asleep on the job: Daddy Longlegs

Suppose what we call "parenting" is just a situation in which overgrown kids take care of smaller ones? That's the underlying premise of Daddy Longlegs — a funny, fantastic, genuinely alarming quasi-autobiographical cheapster by 20-something brothers Josh and Benny Safdie. The big kid is Lenny (Frownland director Ronald Bronstein): divorced father, motor-mouthed galoot and closet sad sack, introduced ordering a footlong hot dog and then dropping it on the ground as he attempts to vault a fence in Central Park while stuffing his face. The little kids are a pair of tousle-haired grade-schoolers (actual brothers Sage and Frey Ranaldo, sons of Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo), who, left in Lenny's care for two weeks, accept his overbearing personality and supremely irresponsible child-care skills with remarkable equability. Lenny is a major-league fuckup, so desperately self-absorbed and endlessly self-justifying, he could talk a hole in your head. Lenny, like Bronstein, is a professional movie projectionist. In one of Daddy Longlegs' prize scenes, he attempts and fails to persuade a colleague to take his shift — then has to start the movie, dash to the kids' school to pick them up and race back to the rep house where he works before the reel change. Daddy Longlegs is scarcely less frantic. There's no downtime and few transitions — the Safdies keep their violently handheld camera close to the action throughout. The movie is a complete, grueling immersion in Lenny's chaotic world — a kid's-eye view of what it's like to live in a constant state of emergency.

(Downtown Indie, July 9-15; also Cinefamily, July 13, with special appearance by Josh and Benny Safdie)


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