Plot: Jin (John Cho) finds himself in Columbus, Indiana, as his father is hospitalized and shows little signs of potential recovery, His father is a prominent professor and at his side is Eleanor (Parker Posey), his protege and top student, who has remained close even decades after she graduated. As he was never close with his father, Jin feels locked in a kind of purgatory, as he feels an obligation to stay until his father passes, but he doesn’t see the point. Meanwhile, a young library page named Casey (Haley Lu Richardson) feels trapped as well, as she seems destined for bigger things, but fears her mother will relapse and fall into chaos with her presence. Despite a passion for knowledge and obvious talent, she hasn’t even started college yet, let alone taken advantage of some unique offers to pursue her dreams. Jin and Casey soon cross paths and spark an instant friendship, with Casey showing Jin her favorite buildings while the two bond and just keep each other company. The two have an obvious impact on each other, but will either be inspired to make some changes in their lives?
Entertainment Value: Columbus is a quiet, deliberate movie, but it also burns with intense moments just beneath the surface. The slow pace and grounded approach is going to alienate viewers who need a more kinetic, flashy kind of narrative, but I loved this movie. The pace is slow, but I feel the movie compensates with dynamic visuals and camera work. A lot of simple conversations are presented in stylish, memorable ways, rarely content to settle on simple, predictable visuals. A scene between Cho and Posey unfolds through mirrors for example, making a somewhat reserved scene really come to life in the process. This is a frequent theme in Columbus, down to earth moments framed by remarkable visuals or locations. The instances where the movie takes a more kinetic approach, such as the argument on the covered bridge or Casey’s sudden dancing, are all the more powerful as a result. The performances are grounded and excellent, with Haley Lu Richardson as the stand out. She brings such charm and charisma to the role, you can’t take your eyes off her performance. Her presence really sends an electric charge through the movie, a dynamic and memorable effort. Cho is quite good as well, while Posey does a lot with her smaller role. If you appreciate stylish, character driven dramas, Columbus is highly recommended.
John Cho honors us with an extended shot of his bare ass, but that’s the lone instance of nakedness here. There’s an awkward, humorous attempt at seduction as well, but it doesn’t end in romance. No blood. The movie has no violence whatsoever, so it makes sense that bloodshed would be null. The dialogue is well written and sharp, making even casual conversations seem natural and interesting. Casey is a dynamic, charismatic character and makes every exchange memorable, with her sly humor, almost ever present smile, and ability to make even awkward situations more tolerable. The movie doesn’t throw out catch phrases or over the top moments, but it does have effective humor and a number of memorable dialogue runs. So not wild, but skilled writing that never disappoints. As for craziness, the movie remains grounded and takes a slice of life approach throughout. But Casey is such a unique character, I think the movie deserves a point just for her presence.
Overall Insanity: 1/10