Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Movie review: Answer This!

Answer This!, the latest movie from brothers Chris and Mike Farah, is a fun movie and definitely worth seeing. The movie is about a perennial grad student, Paul Tarson, played by Auggie from Covert Affairs. Paul is an 8th year Ph.D. student who awkwardly dates a freshman in the discussion group he teaches and drinks in most of the bars in Ann Arbor while avoiding finishing his dissertation.

The film clearly "gets" Ann Arbor and U of M. There is a small slip up when the trivia team, the Ice Tigers, erroneously refers to 8 Ball as "The 8 Ball." It's great to see our city (and our bars) featured so prominently on the silver screen. There are some strange movie magic moments where characters are seen walking into one building only to be in the interior of another building. But all in all, Answer This! could serve as a tourism promotion for Ann Arbor.

There are definitely some problems. In particular, the romantic relationship in the movie doesn't quite make sense. Also, aside from the love interest and the server at Ashley's, there are no female characters; the film probably doesn't pass the Bechdel Test. Unless you consider an all female trivia team screaming "Yeah!" after their third place victory dialogue between two female characters about something other than a man. But maybe this is more reflective of widespread societal and film industry problems rather than a specific issue with this film.

Still, Answer This! is a fun little flick. You should check it out. It looks like it's playing at the Michigan Theater through Thursday, November 3rd.


  1. It's their first movie, not their latest (unless web shorts count).

    And plenty of people call it "The 8 Ball" (it's even on the Blind Pig's website), but if you really wanna split hairs, it's called The Eightball Saloon.

    Also, that movie kind of sucked. Too many shallow sub-plots, too few punchlines, weird editing choices. I sympathize with those guys; it's hard to make a good movie about pub trivia, but I think if they'd stuck to that plot a little more, and not tried to cram in so much of their love letter to Ann Arbor, just dropped the weird relationship with the freshman girl altogether, then it would've felt a lot more focused.

  2. I say the 8 ball and I've lived in or around Ann Arbor for over 20 years.

  3. Well shit. I was called out earlier for saying "The 8 Ball" rather than just "8 Ball." Guess I should have done more research prior to writing the article.

  4. I'm with Peter: movie sucked. And I kept thinking that Paul was blind cause of "Covert Affairs."

  5. I third the comments above, in my experience there's nothing wrong with referring to the 8 ball that way. It just goes to show you how good the Ann Arbor bona fides of this movie are, which won't stop me from pointing out oddities like the way the three trivia playing gentlemen go west on Liberty to get to Ashley's (!?!) or the way that the GSIs are referred to as TAs. And was the 8th year grad student living on Greenwood? It sure looked like it with all the tennis shoes in the power lines. No wonder he can't finish his dissertation.

    But it got a lot right, as has been said, like the portrayal of how when you ask a grad student about their dissertation they reply thoughtfully and seriously with nearly incomprehensible academic jargon.

    I agree that the romantic relationship with the manic pixie dream girl both didn't quite make sense and was weird but it was partially redeemed by some memorable moments like their amorous encounter in the library stacks when the custodian who catches them says "don't make a mess."

    The movie was at its best with its humour, particularly the goofy trivia tournament for a prize consisting of boxed wine and candy flavored condoms, or something like that, but the father/son issues didn't quite gel for me.

    But the real draw of this movie has to be all the Ann Arbor settings: the Diag, the Cube, State street, Liberty, West Hall, the Graduate Library, the Law Quad, Zingerman's, ERC, Michigan Stadium, and the above mentioned bars all served unobtrusively and authentically as interior and exterior sets. For people like me who have been going to all of these made in Michigan movies for whatever tiny glimpse of a local landmark we can see, this is the one we've been waiting for. With the drastic reduction in the tax credits for filmmakers here we are not likely to see another film like this one anytime soon.

  6. Agree with previous commenters. Tired cliche after tired cliche - but hey! it's set in Ann Arbor!