Thursday, March 30, 2023

Acidman: Maybe You Shouldn’t Keep Watching the Skies

If the "aliens” let you see them, you have probably made some bad life choices, because it means you are sufficiently isolated, both socially and geographically, so that the “visitors” are not worried about what you might try to tell anyone. Maggie’s dad Lloyd is a case in point. He lives in the Oregon woods obsessively documenting “UFOs” in the night sky. The situation is a bit of a concern to her, but staying with him is a great way to hide from the rest of the world in Alex Lehmann’s Acidman, which releases tomorrow in theaters and on VOD.

Apparently, local kids mockingly call Lloyd “Acidman,” as Maggie deduces from the spray paint defacing his ramshackle cottage. She was not able to warn him of her pop-in visit, because Lloyd has gone completely off the grid and has no phone. He is definitely surprised to see her, in an awkward, not especially welcoming kind of way.

However, he starts to warm to her, largely thanks his dog Migo, who sort of acts as their mediator. He even trusts Maggie enough to take her out for a UFO sighting, watching tiny specks of light vaguely moving along the horizon. So, Maggie clearly recognizes the situation is not ideal. Unfortunately, this maybe isn’t the most stable period of her life either.

There is a good chance one of both of them could use some counseling, but the screenplay (by Lehmann and Chris Dowling) never gets that far. Instead, the film focuses on their halting attempts to reconnect as father and daughter. The UFO themes are handled more in the tradition of
UFOria than Close Encounters. This is an achingly well-intentioned film, executed with great sensitivity, but it is all very small in scope.

It is also a small ensemble, basically consisting of the father, his daughter, and occasionally the local café proprietor, who seems to be the only nice person in town (plus Migo, of course). That puts a lot of attention and pressure on Thomas Haden Church and Dianna Agron, but they deliver impressively. These are not necessarily “likable” characters. They are prickly and often self-destructive, but always tragically human. While Church offers up maybe more of what we might expect of the gruff eccentric (which has largely become his character niche), Agron really digs in and goes surprisingly dark (but not at the expense of viewer sympathy).

There is a great deal of sadness to
Acidman, but it really is quite a feat on Lehmann’s part that it is not a more depressing viewing experience. The film encourages understanding for those on the extreme margins of society, but it never fully lands an emotional haymaker. Respectfully recommended for the fine performances and its humanistic spirit (if you can manage your expectation), Acidman releases tomorrow (3/31) at the Laemmle Monica Film Center.