February 19, 2006
Since the popular T.V. show Friends ended its long run there’s been some speculation as to what the cast would do next. Some have stayed on T.V. (Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow) and some have moved on to movies (Jennifer Aniston). Courteney Cox has followed Aniston’s lead and tried her hand at movies, starring in an independent feature, November (2004), which allowed her to try something different without the pressure of carrying an expensive Hollywood production.
One night, Sophie (Cox) and her boyfriend Hugh (LeGros) stop at a convenience store. He goes in to get her something and is killed by a man robbing the store. She sees a psychiatrist (Dunn) to deal with the trauma of her boyfriend’s death and the headaches she’s been suffering from. While teaching her photography class and reviewing a collection of student slides, she comes across one of the convenience store taken the night Hugh was killed. None of the students claim responsibility for the picture and she has no idea how it got there.
Once strange things start happening – mysterious phone calls, distorted video and fragmented memories – we slide into David Lynch territory a la Lost Highway (1997) and Mulholland Drive (2001). Like these films, November distorts ambient sounds, manipulates electricity and inserts random, abstract imagery to create an unsettling mood that blurs Sophie’s perception of reality.
Cox plays well against type, shedding all of her sitcom acting tics for an understated, muted performance. She demonstrates range, showcasing decent dramatic chops. November is a gutsy choice for Cox as she tries her hand at much darker material than she is normally associated with. She does a good job of portraying someone gradually coming apart at the seams, wracked with guilt over what happened and the events leading up to it.
Director Greg Harrison blends the sensibilities of David Fincher (think of the look of The Game) and David Lynch (a protagonist trapped in their own tortured reality) to create a surprisingly effective thriller. November is a cinematic jigsaw puzzle. Harrison repeatedly revisits the murder and the events surrounding it, each time showing things in a slightly different way, manipulating the way Sophie perceives things. Certain phrases are repeated and more things are revealed so that by the end it all fits together.
There is an audio commentary by director Greg Harrison and screenwriter Benjamin Brand. They wanted to root the movie in a female point-of-view and clarified this by re-editing the opening sequence after screening it at Sundance. Harrison talks about meeting Cox and his first impressions of her. Brand tends to ask Harrison questions and this keeps the commentary going. They touch upon the differences between Brand’s screenplay and the film.
Harrison returns for another commentary with the film’s director of photography Nancy Schreiber. This is more technically oriented as they discuss the challenges of a fast shooting schedule of only 15 days and with a budget under $500,000. This is a good listen for aspiring low budget filmmakers interested in shooting on digital video cameras.
“Alternate Opening Sequence” features a much slicker opening credits sequence that the filmmakers felt betrayed the movie’s low budget roots. Harrison and composer/visual effects Lew Baldwin explain why they didn’t use it in an accompanying commentary.
“A Conversation with Lew Baldwin, Composer/Visual Effects” has him talking with Harrison over clips from the movie and on-the-set footage. A lot of the look was a result of actual locations they used and shooting from unusual angles.
Finally, there are photo galleries for a collection of black and white pictures Sophie took that were actually done by Michele Asselin. Also included is a gallery of Jesse’s photos used in the movie and behind-the-scenes pics.