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American Animals - Rounding up the Usual Suspects
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steve98052
steve98052
American Animals
SIFF's capsule summary: "Turning the heist movie inside out, filmmaker Bart Layton (The Imposter) exhilaratingly dramatizes the outrageous story of four dimwitted college friends who, inspired by their favorite films, hatch a preposterous scheme to steal a multimillion-dollar rare book collection." (US, 2018, 116 minutes)
SIFF link: American Animals

American Animals starts with words on the screen, which fade from the first line to the second:

  This film is not based on a true story.
  This film is              a true story.
Was it claiming to be a very close dramatization of a real story? Or was it a mockumentary?

As the film tells it, in 2004, Spencer Reinhard (Barry Keoghan), a Transylvania University student on a library tour saw the "special collections" room, and came up with the idea of stealing the treasures kept there. He shared his idea with childhood friend Warren Lipka (Evan Peters), and they formulated a plan to rob the library. After some research (including a lot of heist films), they concluded that two people couldn't pull off the robbery without another accomplice, and brought in Eric Borsuk (Jared Abrahamson) for added brain power and extra hands. Further on, they brought in wealthy jock Chas Allen (Blake Jenner) to drive the get-away car.

Realizing that they can't make a fortune without finding a buyer, Spencer and Warren get a referral to a New York art fence, who connects them the actual fence (Udo Kier, I think).

They carefully scout the library, noting the comings and goings of the employees and other regulars. Spencer draws detailed maps of the library, particularly the special collections room. To help subdue the unfortunate special collections librarian Betty Jean Gooch (Ann Dowd, I think), they mail-order stun guns. And they costume themselves as old men, thinking that will make them inconspicuous.

7 Good The story is excellent, and the directing is good on the suspense side, and very good on the comedy side. And Transylvania University, besides gaining the film Kentucky tax benefits, is a funny place name. The soundtrack is very good and the acting ranges from good to very good.

The film works in a lot of ways, and it's very good overall.

Languages: English.

Rating: This film has a US rating of "R", for foul language and occasional drug abuse.

Screening: 2 pm, Pacific Place (room 4).
Audience: a large SIFF press screening crowd, well over 100, about 285 seats (estimated capacity).

Snacks: none.

Ads and announcements: no ads at press screenings; SIFF volunteer "R" provided announcements.

Notes to myself:

SIFF statistics: 9 films (all features), no parties.

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