The film is a bumpy ride at times, but it remains a charming expedition.
It may just be a coincidence that Lena Dunham was a guest speaker at SXSW the same year Fort Tilden won the Grand Jury Award at the festival, but it’s certainly fitting. The film has nearly the same setup of Dunham’s popular HBO program Girls–young privileged female hipsters living in Brooklyn, struggling to make it in life in spite of everything being given to them. Directors Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers put more emphasis than Girls on the satirical aspect of their helpless and obnoxious characters, but the results aren’t far off from each other–a funny indie comedy featuring reprehensible people.
Twenty-something hipsters Harper (Bridey Elliott) and Allie (Clare McNulty) share a massive apartment in Williamsburg despite not actually working for a living thanks to wealthy parents. Ask them what they do and Allie will respond that she’s preparing for the Peace Corps and Harper will claim to be an artist despite not showing any signs of interest in the craft. Which is why it’s funny (and somewhat annoying) when the roommates insist on “taking the day off” to meet-up on the beach with two guys they met at a party. Really? A day off from what? But the real question becomes, how the hell are these inept self-involved friends going to navigate the city? It’s not a far trek, bu
Fort Tilden doesn’t hide the shallowness of its characters. Upon realizing they’re a bike short for their beach trip, Allie demands one from their creepy neighbor without a hint of courtesy. But Harper isn’t remotely grateful as she simply refuses to ride a stranger’s bike. These are the kind of people who are easy to loathe, and this film embraces that.
Speed bumps are hit before they even get on the street because neither of them know how to pump air into a tire. Failing at the simplest of tasks ends up being the running joke in Fort Tilden. Though once they step outside of their apartment, and into the real world, many of the jokes are about over-paying for everything. Because money has been handed to them without having to work for it, their concept of money is completely skewed. Which is how they end up spending $100 on a cab ride and $200 for an old barrel without thinking twice about it.
Laughs begin to fade when they do finally reach their destination, but it’s actually not a bad thing. For the first time reality settles in for both characters and you can practically hear the gears shifting in the story. Up until this point their knee-jerk reaction to problem solving was to call daddy or write a snarky text, their phone activity displayed onscreen used as a neat effect, but when they put their phones down we see their true identities at last. And this is when Bridey Elliott and Clare McNulty truly shine in their roles. Throughout Fort Tilden the chemistry between Elliott and McNulty is silky-smooth, but in their darkest hour it’s clear they’re a perfect match for each other.
There are moments when the gags are overplayed and their personalities are borderline insufferable, but that’s kind of the point of Fort Tilden. Eventually these two obnoxious, adolescent souls come to realize that they need to grow up. But until that moment, watching the unintelligent friends attempt to reach their simple destination as if it were some epic feat is surprisingly entertaining–almost like a female hipster version of Dumb and Dumber. Fort Tilden is a bumpy ride at times, but it remains a charming expedition, which is perfectly summed up in the last line of the film, “This is tediously adorable.”
Originially published on July 28th, 2014