One of the perks of covering film festivals is that you’re more or less forced into trying out films you otherwise wouldn’t, either because you’ve got a gap in your schedule or another work you were trying to catch filled up. That was how I ended up enjoying A Wonderful Cloud earlier this year, wandering into its premiere screening because it was at a convenient time, which allowed me to enter it with a completely open mind since I knew nothing about it. That’s hard to do these days, when we can discover everything about a movie sometimes months in advance of its actual unveiling and while A Wonderful Cloud isn’t a thriller involving a twist that only works if you haven’t been informed of it, it nonetheless benefits from less preawareness, because boiled down to its basic elements it sounds like a completely different film than it actually is.
A new work by uber-indie filmmaker Eugene Kotlyarenko, A Wonderful Cloud is boldly committed to being both sweet and gross, with a number of scenes featuring Kotlyarenko shitting, dealing with shit (literally and figuratively), and talking about shit. Kotlyarenko plays a perhaps semi-autobiographical character also named Eugene, whose ex Kate (Kotlyarenko’s real life ex Kate Lyn Sheil) is coming to visit him in LA in order to get him to sign over to her the business they started together. The pair go on various misadventures over the city and deal with their remaining feelings for one another as well as the issues they still have.
Like You and Me and Everyone We Know before it, Cloud is episodic, exploring the characters of LA through the differing perspectives of Eugene and Kate. The two have undeniable chemistry, but it’s not hard to see why they fell apart—Eugene is whimsical and spontaneous, dedicated to living in the moment while Kate is becoming more focused on the future and making a name for herself. With the wrong actors, Cloud could have been an insufferable mess, whiny and indulgent; luckily, the cast of characters Eugene assembled are immensely intriguing, turning the film into a spiritual successor to John Waters’ Pecker, only with LA subbed in for Baltimore.
A Wonderful Cloud might not ever reach true greatness, but it’s not aiming to anyway. Instead it merely wants to document the definitive close of a once important relationship as it guides you through a weird city. Kotlyarenko’s commitment to portraying himself and Kate as frankly as possible is also to his credit and neither character receives bias. Illustrating himself as a balding, sweaty, frequently gross Peter Pan and Kate as a smart, stylish but emotionally closed off young woman, A Wonderful Cloud is more truthful than the bulk of this wave of artier indie comedies. And its poop jokes are infinitely better than anything from the Apatow camp.
A Wonderful Cloud may share a scatological fixation with Apatow and crew but what makes it so much more memorable and honest is its commitment to place, geographically and emotionally. Though the film’s very loose narrative is centered on that awkward post-romance phase where feelings still linger albeit in an imbalanced way, it’s also about romance of location, with Eugene working just as hard to convince Kate to fall back in love with LA. When modern comedies deal with place at all, they’re usually dealing with it in a cliche sense, like the infinite variations of New York snobbery audience experiences each year. But A Wonderful Cloud is a film that is boldly devoted to the less glamorous ends of LA life, Eugene’s case for the town based around its character instead of, say, a deli or a bookstore or unrealistically beautiful loft apartments.
Even for an Austinite with a distrust of all things LA, A Wonderful Cloud’s case for the city was appealing though Kate’s unwillingness to let herself be wooed by the city or Eugene’s charms is equally understandable. That conflict helps make A Wonderful Cloud more than a cute gross out comedy, the end result is the rare navel gazing indie work that also makes you genuinely feel something.
Morgan Davis sells bootleg queso on the streets of Austin in order to fund Loser City. When he isn’t doing that, he gets complimented and/or threatened by Austin’s musical community for stuff he writes at Ovrld, which he is the Managing Editor of.