JohnPaul Morris’ Quicksand is a very funny indie buddy comedy with a few sweet messages about friendship and life as a twenty-something young adult. Though it does feel a bit rough around the edges due to its budgetary constraints, it manages to be a bit of a hidden gem thanks to its clever setups and payoffs. Plus, it isn’t very predictable, even though we’ve certainly seen its two-goofballs-in-over-their-heads premise in untold numbers of crime capers.
Ray (Tanner Presswood) and Paul (Simon Elias) are two down-on-their-luck inseparable best friends struggling to jumpstart the next chapter of their lives. After Ray fumbles breaking up with his girlfriend (who correctly points out that Paul controls his every move), the two bachelors end up losing their mutual friend’s wedding ring. Ray and Paul were supposed to be “co-best men” for their friend, and the wild goose chase to retrieve the ring threatens not only their ability to make it to the wedding on time, but also their sanity and their lives.
The movie’s artistic success stems from its not taking itself too seriously. Even though the film’s soundtrack is laid on a bit thick at times, what you won’t see in Quicksand is a lot of unearned, maudlin emotion. Morris’ script is too snappy and well-paced for that, and that’s a very good thing. I don’t think he has completely perfected his sense of comedic timing, but the jokes that land best land very well.
After Ray and Paul witness the film’s first in a series of crimes, the crooked cop and his crew that follow our heroes aren’t written or played more threateningly than they need to be. They’re blessedly goofy themselves, sometimes mirroring some of the same struggles of young adulthood as our protagonists.
In another aspect of the story that’s similarly well-handled, Ray and Paul have a little tension between them established early on — Ray is a bit of a pushover and Paul usually takes the reins of any situation, typically creating a snowball effect of trouble. Crucially, they don’t fight about this and the filmmakers don’t waste any time making a mountain out of a molehill. A lot of buddy comedies tediously belabor the point of whatever lesson they want their characters to learn, but Quicksand wisely addresses it head-on when it needs to and then barrels ahead, keeping things light and fun, as they should be.
By now, you’ve probably recognized a theme emerging. A lot of what works about Quicksand is due to what it doesn’t do. However, these choices don’t only apply to its specific take on a crime caper or even just that of a buddy picture. I have seen many well-meaning low-budget (and some high-budget) comedies take wrong turn after wrong turn, either stuffing themselves so full of jokes that there’s no time for character development, or trying to be edgy and failing miserably. There’s never a point in Quicksand where I didn’t feel like I was in good hands on both of those fronts.
Though some moments are better realized than others, this movie is clearly the product of a genuinely sweet vision. If not for the gunplay, it probably could attain a PG rating. Perhaps I’m forgetting some fleeting moments of vulgarity, but in any event, Quicksand isn’t flailing about desperately trying to be raunchy like so many quirky comedies before it. It isn’t a masterpiece, but its heart is always in the right place. | George Napper
Quicksand is now available on Apple’s video-on-demand service.