Wade on Birmingham

Sidewalk 2008: That Darn Cat


Movie review: ‘Goliath’

By Chance Shirley

GoliathWatching “Goliath” cold — I hadn’t even seen the trailer — I entertained the thought that it would be a sequel to “Colossus: The Forbin Project,” a movie from 1970 in which two supercomputers, Colossus and Goliath, take over the world. After the opening credits, I realized this would be a considerably more intimate flick.

The Goliath of the film’s title is not a supercomputer, nor a biblical giant. Goliath is a cat. More specifically, “the sweetest, most wonderful cat in the whole world.”

But it’s really about the cat’s owner, an unnamed guy (played by David Zellner) who lives in an initially unnamed town (eventually revealed to be Austin) working at an unnamed job.

The film screens Sept. 28 at the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival.


Things aren’t going so well for him. He’s dealing with a bitter divorce, he’s been demoted to “the floor” at work, and he’s missing a cat.

Still, much of “Goliath” plays as dry comedy. We’re encouraged to laugh with the guy (and sometimes at him) as his world slowly crumbles. The movie opens with him leaving a rambling, ugly, funny voicemail message for his ex-wife. And the scene where he is demoted plays out like a bit from “Office Space,” if slightly less absurd.

The movie takes some dark turns. Becoming more frustrated with his job and his ex-wife, he grows more desperate in his search for Goliath. And he unfairly takes out his frustrations on a sex offender who recently moved to his neighborhood.

Even when the movie is funny, it isn’t snappy. Most of “Goliath” is shot in long takes with little camera movement, bringing to mind Steven Soderbergh’s “Bubble.” I dig the approach: The actors and the cinematography drive the movie and its humor, rather than depending on fast-cut editing common in most modern movies.

Clip: Sending condolences, of a sort, by voicemail.

But, on some occasions, those long takes wear out their welcome. The scene of the estranged couple signing legal documents features a nearly five-minute shot that’s about four minutes too long.

And as inspired as some of the comedy is, the movie occasionally devolves into the sort of navel-gazing that can hinder indies. An extended close-up shot of Guy trimming his mustache comes to mind. Which is followed by a shot of a bathroom sink, with water, soap and mustache trimmings slowly going down the drain.

When “Goliath” works, it definitely elicits an emotional response, so I’m willing to forgive most of its flaws. And the small cast and crew get a lot out of what I’m assuming was limited time and money.

I was especially impressed with Jim Eastburn’s cinematography: clean, simple, yet consistently interesting. And I enjoyed seeing Wiley Wiggins, a veteran of several Richard Linklater movies, and Andrew Bujalski, director of past Sidewalk favorites “Funny Ha Ha” and “Mutual Appreciation.”

But lead actor David Zellner gets the MVP award. Not only does he anchor the movie (he’s in nearly every scene), but he also wrote and directed it.

chance shirleyChance Shirley will debut his sci-fi horror comedy, “Interplanetary,” in October at the Indie Memphis Film Festival. He’s co-founder of Birmingham-based Crewless Productions and will be part of the Sidewrite panel during the Sidewalk Festival.

“Goliath” will screen at 11 a.m. Sept. 28 at the Regions Center Auditorium [map].


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