SXSW 2023: Peak Season Movie Review

Loren (Derrick DeBlasis) & Amy (Claudia Restrepo) go tubing. | Credit: Tectonics Film, LLC

Peak Season

SXSW Film Festival Narrative Spotlight Section

Reviewed for by Abe Friedtanzer

Director: Henry Loevner, Steven Kanter

Writer: Henry Loevner

Cast: Claudia Restrepo, Derrick DeBlasis, Ben Coleman, Fred Melamed, Stephanie Courtney, Will Neff, Caroline Kwan, Ron Hanks, Gadiel Del Orbe, Natasha Dewhurst

Screened at: Violet Crown Cinema, Austin, TX, 3/12/23

Opens: March 12th, 2023 (World Premiere)

There’s something about being away on vacation that can make an empty world full of possibilities. The attitude of a partner can also have a tremendous impact on the experience, since being with someone romantically can enhance a trip while getting into a fight with a friend – or family member – while away has the potential to ruin it all. Peak Season shows how one person’s investment in truly connecting with the outdoors and the vibe allows her to feel fully free and happy, something that comes in part from another open-minded individual who isn’t her fiancé.

Amy (Claudia Restrepo) and Max (Ben Coleman) arrive from New York City for a summer getaway in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Max, who is accustomed to a certain lifestyle of luxury that is new to Amy, can barely take a moment to step away from work, and misses a fishing lesson with Loren (Derrick DeBlasis) as a result. Amy goes anyway and has a great time, and when Max flies home for a few days so he can go in to the office, Amy turns to her new friend in town and the two of them begin spending all their time together, able to relate to each other on an unexpected level.

There is a wondrous rhythm to this film found almost immediately in the banter between Amy and Loren. She’s full of zingers and doesn’t hold back, and he’s just as ready to respond with a quip of his own. There’s clearly an attraction but she somehow tells herself that it feels safe and okay because Max knows who Loren is, though he in truth has no idea of the depth of their instant connection and how easily he sees who she really is when Max can’t hope to grasp that, eagerly agreeing to a CrossFit class an old friend suggests instead of the hike Amy has been pushing and reminding her to get a jump start on wedding activities while he’s gone instead of taking in the scenery.

This romantic comedy-drama comes from directing duo Henry Loevner and Steven Kanter, who were last at SXSW with a terrific pandemic-specific film, The End of Us, which also featured the same three cast members with roles switched and Coleman in the lead. There is evidently a smooth and highly effective rapport in place that allows these filmmakers to elicit naturalistic and hilarious performances from their cast. It never feels like this film is trying too hard or even being all that deliberate, and following the characters on a journey towards some sort of happiness, which may not involve a romantically satisfying conclusion, is immensely worthwhile.

Restrepo and DeBlasis play off each other wonderfully, and their scenes crackle with humor. Amy is talkative and cheerful, and it’s a rare opportunity for her to get to speak uninterrupted and have her thoughts truly listened to with a new open audience. Loren lives out of his car and has embraced a gig lifestyle, always working with visitors he know won’t be permanent fixtures in his life. It’s remarkable therefore to see the chemistry that exists between them as they essentially become best friends within a short period of time, with Max an unfortunate memory who will surely return to suck away some of the magic of their meeting. The script is rich and the backdrop of the film only makes it feel more serene and dreamlike, with just enough reality mixed in to ground it and remind that it can’t be permanent. This film is a delight, one that maximizes its assets to deliver a subtle and unassuming film that’s highly enjoyable.

82 minutes

Story: B+

Acting: A-

Technical: B+

Overall: B+

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