‘The Coatroom’ is great fun, but could have used a bit more plot

‘The Coatroom’

The way I see it, comedic films often have two different approaches. There’s the slapstick comedy, with goofy gags and lowbrow shtick. Then there’s the more high brow kind of humor, where you laugh at something that may not be obviously funny. I guess to use examples: There’s Something About Mary would be low brow, and The Royal Tenenbaums would be high brow.

Me, personally, I’m a lowbrow kind of guy. I like a good sight gag or fart joke. Sure, I’ll chuckle at some of that that “thinking man” humor, but it’ll never get me rolling in the aisles like Cameron Diaz’ hair sticking up did the first time I saw Mary.

So, looking at this week’s indie flick, The Coatroom, I think there’s a little bit of both. There’s some low brow gags that come off as pretty funny. Personally, I wish there had been a few more moments like that. For me, the film’s funniest moments come in the second half of this Clerks-like talker.

The story revolves around James Cotton (Patrick Carrico), a disillusioned ex-college student who gets a job working in the coatroom at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We spend the day with him as he gets to know his bizarre collection of co-workers, and meets different types of people visiting the museum.

It would be impossible to watch The Coatroom without drawing direct connections to Kevin Smith’s Clerks. While there is a little more art to the visual style of Coatroom, the concept is basically similar. Characters sit around, show little to no respect to the people they serve, and goof around talking about sex and drugs. Where Coatroom differs, however, is that it unfortunately lacks likable characters. There isn’t one person worth rooting for. Not only that, you don’t even know what you’re rooting for.

The Coatroom really has no particular point to make. The characters sit around, complaining incessantly about their lives, then do little to nothing about it. Nothing happens. No character revelations, no plot, no resolution. As a result, The Coatroom was a challenge to sit through.

At the same time, the film did have a few clever, if somewhat bizarre moments. It’s best scene comes near the end, when Cotton shares some coke with a fellow Museum employee, Nick (Christopher Keener). This section of the film was very well done, from the dialogue and acting, to the visuals and the editing. Even the jokes were more accessible and had me laughing. In fact, what makes The Coatroom interesting to watch are its inspired visuals.

Director Jason F. Gilbert creates some wonderful shots, and largely gains natural performances from his actors. Claire Bromwell is terrific, and Keener provides the film’s lightest moments. Carrico does a great job as well, carrying the film on his shoulders.

My only wish was that The Coatroom had taken more time to develop an actual plotline. All the great visuals and performances can’t change the fact that the story moves as a slug’s pace, and when you get to the finish, there’s no one there to greet you.

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