The Color Wheel (2011) Poster

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Strong dialog keeps the breezy movie driving forward quite nicely
mbs21 December 2011
Pretty funny black and white film follows an argumentative brother and sister combo as he drives her on a road trip upstate to try and get her things out of her ex lover's apt. While in the town she runs into some people they knew back in high school who invite her to crash a party while dragging her brother begging and pleading not to alongside her. While the movie's plot doesn't sound like too much--you get such a strong sense of the two characters personalities (and their gradual realizations about their would be lives) that just watching the two of them argue back and fourth throughout the film's running time proves to be quite funny. Watching them try to get upstate in the first half is a surprisingly funny movie in itself. The two characters'lifelike ability to work up a good rhythm with their dialog while picking on each other keeps you on your toes enough for you to really get into the movie's flow. This also keeps the movie's pace sharp and just quick enough for you to almost miss the more subtle turn the film takes in its second half. When you get to the movie's end, you might be a little jarred, but you'll have definitely enjoyed the ride there at least.

The second half does gets slightly more dramatic, but not anywhere close to really damper the breezy mood the film's already established so far. While the film will inevitably (and somewhat wrongly) get tagged with the "mumblecore" label, the fact is the strong and at times stinging dialog keeps it from being just another indie film about slackery young people talking about nothing. The two lead performances also vary a bit more then the typical non performances found in "mumblecore" type films, and the tone of the whole movie remains firmly in the director's control the entire time without ever sacrificing the humor that sometimes comes with slight character growth. It definitely helps that the slightly Tina Fey looking sister played by the very good Carleen Altman can't help but standout given the focus on her character and the depth given to her by the screenplay. This one's a much more accessible film then you'd ever imagine a mumblecore type movie to be and that could very well be its key to being seen by more people.
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A Cassavetes influenced tragicomedy about sibling rivalry and familial love
octopusluke24 December 2012
Alex Ross Perry's The Color Wheel is proof that indie narcissism can occasionally pull out the goods.

Filmed on grainy 16mm, it's a meandering road movie about two underachieving, alienated siblings. After she splits up with her professor-cum-boyfriend , aspiring news anchor J.R. (Carlen Altman) begs her shlubby younger brother Colin (played by director Perry) to help her back up the remnants of her miserable life and move on to the next. The journey across the States causes quite a stir, with the pair constantly berating each other in that conventional brotherly-sisterly banter way. It escalates to a harrowing final ten minutes, where the familial relationship is tested and it's clear that, if they weren't to have each other, they wouldn't have anything.

Like many a-mumblecore movie before it, The Color Wheel consists of verbal sparring and excruciatingly awkward long takes. Unlike those insufferable predecessors, Perry and Altman's script moves with great acerbic force, audaciously treating the blackly comic as flippant light humor. It's quite similar in tone to Rick Alverson's The Comedy, starring Tim Heidecker, only the two loathsome characters here are presented with more compassion, actually having a narrative arc to follow right up to the film's bitter end.

Whilst the scenes shared between the two are close to Alvy Singer>Annie Hall style perfection, The Color Wheel loses it's spark when the pair are backed up by cliché filler characters – the sorority bitch, the dumb jock, the rich kids – during a horrendous dinner party. It's the only time when the amateur acting and forced dialogue reflect it's minor budget production qualities.

With improvised dialogue, a roaming plot, grainy 16mm stock and Sean Price Williams' artless cinematography, The Color Wheel absolutely stinks of Husbands-era John Cassavetes. Not that it's a bad scent, but it permeates throughout the film and leads the homage into unwarranted pastiche, and ultimately externalizes us from the drama.

Even still, this minor tragicomedy, is a minor triumph for Perry and star in the making Altman. For fans of all things awkward, this unassuming movie sets the m-m-m-mumblecore wheel back in motion.

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A sarcastic, boldly funny debut from a man who understands filmmaking
StevePulaski31 July 2015
Alex Ross Perry's The Color Wheel is one of the most marvelous directorial debuts I have yet to see, wickedly witty and self-assured, and also a candidate for one of the funniest comedies of the current decade. It combines sarcastic humor with abrasive, often cut-throat dialog, as if a filter has been lifted between characters so they speak their minds at all times, and blends the lines between being a part of hipster/millennial culture and attempting to satirize it seamlessly. It's some of the most fun you'll have being surrounded by people you probably wouldn't want to associate yourself with in real life.

We follow Colin (Alex Ross Perry), a softspoken dweeb who lives with his girlfriend in his parents house because the low cost of living, to him, is "smart business." Colin, despite opposition from his parents, agrees to step outside of his comfort zone to embark on a road trip with his sister JR (Carlen Altman), who needs to move out of her professor-turned-lover's (Bob Byington) apartment. An aspiring broadcast journalist, JR is having difficultly trying to piece together what kind of path she wants to take for her career, leaving her in a place many millennials currently find themselves - inert and unsure of their options.

However, being that these two haven't spoken nor seen each other in years, they manage to resurrect an icy chemistry upon seeing one another that feels like they haven't stopped fighting since they gained the ability to speak. The two travel through New England, running into old classmates and revisiting family problems whilst staying in places like an eerie motel run by a bleeding-heart Christian, with JR planning to give her old professor an earful and Colin hoping the trip will end as soon as possible.

The first of many reasons The Color Wheel works so well is because of its desire to take its characters off of a tightly wound leash and allow them to meander through the film without any sort of situational guidance. Perry, much like this film, is assured in that both JR and Colin can carry a film, thus he doesn't concoct any outrageous circumstances or any raunchy scenarios. There are awkward moments, made only more awkward by the way JR and Colin handle them, but nothing is played for theatrics or for the sake of desperate comedy. Perry allows these characters to carry their own film, never restricting their spirits and, in turn, almost creating a stream of consciousness style of filmmaking (only elevated further by several shots that focus on characters walking or simply existing).

Secondly, Perry and Altman have such natural, refined chemistry here that they might as well be brother and sister in real life. Perry's Colin has the true sensibilities of someone who walks into someplace new, immediately scopes out every possible exit, and runs through a list of excuses or alibis that could get him to leave early without getting a second look. His simple mindset of being by himself, or with his girlfriend, avoiding anything and everything new, is ripe for comedic jabs and that's why we have Altman, a thoroughly hilarious and beautiful actress who has mastered the art of delivering a comeback with sarcasm. With the two together, Perry gears his conversations between himself and Altman as a brother and sister who have no filter, saying the first thing on their mind to each other and not caring if the other person likes it or not. In a mainstream effort, or a film by lesser talent, every time a brutally honest encounter would occur between two characters, one would leave in tears and we'd be presented with an anticlimactic five or ten minute sequence of whining and moping. Not Perry and not in The Color Wheel; the first conversation had between JR and Colin is Colin saying to JR that brightly scribbling and decorating posterboard with her hopes and dreams to make allegedly make them more obtainable is unfounded garbage. This comes right before he decides to shift everything on the dashboard of her Honda Accord to the floor in a bold and fearless display of authority by someone who doesn't very often claim any.

It's this constant unpredictability between scenes that allows for The Color Wheel to be so surprising but also remarkably fluid and natural. We can't often predict or foresee what life has for us, so this sort of unevenness paradoxically works for the film while it could hurt another comedy of similar merit. It also helps that Perry is, again, so confident in his material, simultaneously embracing the millennial culture of self-discovery and the methodical pursuit of happiness, that he can adhere to its conventions yet blatantly call out its shortcomings and eccentricities.

The Color Wheel is shot with extremely grainy black and white videography in a way that reminds of the scuzzy cinematography that made Kevin Smith's Clerks look like it was recorded with the surveillance cameras in the very same convenient store in which it was set. The black and white adds to the essence of the film, and is only fitting for the style and the film's content. This is a film made up of scenes, vignettes, and conversations instead of cinematographical or thematic details (if you can understand the constant duality and plurality of sibling love and the general concept of disillusionment, The Color Wheel is anything but complex thematically) that can distract us from the picture at hand. This is a thoroughly beautiful film, rich with unfiltered, unabashedly blunt dialog, awkward scenes that are played off in a boldly comedic fashion instead of humbly dismissed and segwayed past by an unsure director, and two sublimely dedicated performances at the film's core. If contemporary indie comedies, or the mumblecore movement needed a voice, it would find it by showing this film at a festival and holding a discussion with a panel upon its completion.
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Two peas in a pod
sunking30 December 2013
I like checking out independent films every once in awhile, so the CW fit the bill, especially because it was billed as a comedy. This was a Black and While film, and I usually take a star off because of that, but for some reason it worked in this case. For some reason the lower quality look gives the viewer a bit of distance they need to enjoy the film.

It resolves around a couple of adult siblings who take a trip together. The sister asks the brother to go with her to get the sisters belongings from an old boyfriends apartment. This trip involved a car ride requiring an overnight stay at a bible belt type motel which was a pretty funny scene. These two are the kind of kids that seemed like they grew up outside the popular crowd. However, I felt drawn to them and felt sorry for how the world revolved around them in cruel ways. They were kind of misfits, but they were not the type that would take crap from anybody. At least they were pretty kind to each other.

The end of the film is kind of a shocker, but it also caused me to think about the movie a lot the day after the viewing. I would recommend this film to those who are open minded. I also wanted to point out that the brother and sister looked and acted a lot like they really were siblings - great acting job. I think both of them are deserving of future success in the arts.
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Save 90 minutes of your life and avoid.
adamariasoto28 October 2012
The Color Wheel is a truly awful movie. Let's start with the simple fact that the title has nothing to do with the movie, which was shot in black and white for an unknown and almost certainly completely pointless reason. A 'slacker road trip' film, I can buy the idea that the filmmakers were trying to capture some Clerks like magic and failed miserably.

It's the story of a brother and sister on a road trip, played by the couple who made the thing, which gives it a very weird vibe off the bat. The dialog is all improvised, which can be a good thing if the people doing the improvising have talent. This couple does not. If you've ever been stuck on a long car ride with people who think they're witty and won't stop bickering until you have the urge to put an icepick into someone's head (possibly your own) then you have experienced this film. The big Shock! Twist! ending is so unmotivated, and the characters are so unlikeable, that it feels painfully forced and falls flat. And if you haven't walked out of the theater by that point in a vain hope that it might get better you will be thoroughly disappointed. Stay home and watch reruns of the Simpsons instead of subjecting yourself to this mess.
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One of my favorite movies because of hilarious Carlen and great dialogue and ending
MovieHeartGirl10 January 2019
I love independent films and this is one of my very favorites. I love the filmmaker, Alex Ross Perry, and have seen most if not all of his fillms. Queen of Earth is also incredible, but it's a completely different animal. This is the best low budget film I've ever seen because of the script and actors. I can't believe it's being compared to Clerks. Ugh. I've tried to watch Clerks a few times and can not get through it. The Color Wheel is darkly comedic and features the brilliant Carlen Altman. Carlen is hilarious, beautiful, and an incredible actress, whether delivering serious or comedic lines. The filmmaker, Alex Ross Perry, is also a lead and funny, as well as being a fine actor. I love the script, the look of the film and the ending. I hope Carlen continues acting in films! She is a treasure and should be a major actress! The ending made the film for me--what a shock, but in a good way. WOW. Gutsy, too. I still can't figure out how and why this ending works, but it was a brilliant move! Thanks for making this film! I absolutely loved it and have seen it at least 3 times. I'll probably need to see it once a year for the rest of my life.
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Doesn't this movie get any points for being funny?
mymangodfrey15 April 2018
All of the vicious criticisms of this movie - it's indie mumblecore narcissist hipster preciousness shot on a micro-budget, starring a guy who's a cross between the poor man's Woody Allen and the poor man's Michael Cera - are fair enough. The Color Wheel definitely is the abomination I just described.

But it's really funny! The shapeless plot and the half-assed characterizations somehow work to the movie's benefit; it has a silly unpredictability, and the dialogue is peppered with a million dumb jokes. I scowled at this movie for about ten minutes, and then I grudgingly started having a good time.

By the way, I actually like the aesthetic; it reminds me of Mala Noche, In the Soup, and some early Jim Jarmusch movies.
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Funny and sad story of two wanderers
muge-kuyumcuoglu24 March 2018
I watched this movie yesterday night and I have been thinking about it since then. It is unconventional and difficult to describe without giving spoilers.

It is an indie black and white movie, taking place over a period of two- three days. The characters are on the road, changing places and meeting new people. Everyone they meet is ordinary but they come out as weird and crazy in their own ways.

There is a lot of dialogue which is absurd, funny, in a clerks kind of way, but still realistic. Unlike some reviews here stated, it is scripted and not improvised.

The characters are going back and forth between cynical nihilism and idealistic romanticism. It is a requem for the end of youth, they have to settle down to petty adulthood which they despise. Yet the movie is life-affirming, like a tragedy, which makes it good.

There are many themes in the movie: love, heartbreak, sexual attraction, transition from youth to settled adult life, family, self-image, ideals and realities. The success of the movie is in the way it shows how these themes effect each other in each individual in a very realistic way. There are many connections weaved in a very economical way.

At the end everything, all the dialogue comes together, and the way they acted is justified and accounted for. It is tragic: kind of a sad story but it doesn't give up on life. No loose threads. It is incredible the way they were able to convey so much about these characters in such an efficient way, I felt like I watched all and everything relavant to their story.
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