Harper (Bridey Elliott) and Allie (Clare McNulty) are the quintessential examples of everything that is wrong with post-grad millennials. Self-absorbed and living in a spacious condo no doubt paid for by their rich parents, their version of hardship is not being able to find a place that serves decent coffee. They are the type of individuals who constantly moan about being broke, but will turn around and write a cheque for $200 to buy a run-of-the-mill barrel, which they believe represents the historic culture of New York, off a guy on the street. In short Harper and Allie are the hipsters many of us love to hate, the dim bulbs who act as if they shine the brightest.
While it would be easy to sit on our high horse and snub our noses at the pair, like they frequently do to others, Fort Tilden boldly challenges us to do the opposite. The film dares us to not only embrace the pair’s apathy, but actually care about their uncertain futures as well.
Taking place over the course of a day, the film follows the mid-twenties women as they ditch their responsibilities and set off for Fort Tilden beach to hook-up with two guys they met the night before. During their long trek they make a pit stop to score four pills of molly, get involved in a stroller incident with overprotective parents, idly witness a theft, have a hostile encounter with a cabbie, and inadvertently place a bunch of stranded kittens in a worse situation then they were in before. All the while Allie, the seemingly more thoughtful of the two, is trying to avoid calls from her Peace Corps liaison, who was schedule to meet her regarding an upcoming trip to Liberia. A trip that Harper is doubtful Allie will actually go through with.
Using their excursion as a jumping off point for biting satire, writer-directors Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers take great pleasure in exploring both New York stereotypes and Harper and Allie’s almost “frenemy” level relationship. Unlike their Teach for America friends, who take pride in teaching the underprivileged, but secretly despise having to live amongst them, Harper and Allie have no real sense of direction. Like leaves blowing in the wind they aimlessly sway from one thing to the next without having any real connections. Harper claims to be an artist, but cannot specify the type of art she is interested in when questioned by others. While Allie may claim that the Peace Corps is an important stepping stone for her career, even someone as selfish as Harper can see the lack of passion in Allie’s façade.
Unlike other films that have dealt with misguided millennials, take the charming Frances Ha for example, Fort Tilden thrives on the fact that it never eases up on its protagonists. The film takes them to task for their mean spirited ways every chance it gets. There is no wholesome moment to assure us that everything will be alright for them. No shot of them back in school working towards a future that will redeem their malicious ways. However, we cannot help but feel something for these characters who would no doubt mock us in real life. We not only laugh, ashamed at ourselves for doing so, at many of their snide remarks towards others, but secretly want things to work out for these unlikable characters. Bliss and Rogers offer no such guarantees though. They simply leave us to ponder whether simply realizing and accepting one’s cruel nature is growth enough?
Brilliantly skewing the privileged millennials of today, and featuring sharp performances by Bridey Elliott and Clare McNulty, Fort Tilden is a wonderful comedy that shows sometimes even the most unlikable individuals are worth caring about.
Fort Tilden open in Cineplex Theatres on Friday