“Fort Tilden,” the SxSW Grand Jury Prize winner, is essentially a two-hander starring Bridey Elliott and Clare McNulty as the two worst people in Williamsburg trying to make their way to a beach near Rockaway. Funny and insightful, it might be the most quotable movie of the year.
Allie (McNulty) and Harper (Elliott) are snarky, aimless Brooklyn twentysomethings who accept an invite from two handsome guys to spend a hot summer day at Fort Tilden. Harper is an artist who relies on her father’s money while Allie considers a two year stint in the Corps before returning to study law… or acupuncture. Turns out they are just as clueless about the trip as they are in life. Beginning the journey on bicycles, they dodge texts from Allie’s Peace Corps recruiter, go shopping, argue, impose on friends for transportation and take a rather expensive taxi ride. Thelma and Louise they ain’t.
Unwittingly the daytrip becomes a metaphor for their lives, pushing them to examine their path—to Fort Tilden and in life—and where their decisions will lead them.
Sharply written and hilarious, “Fort Tilden” is a snapshot of post millennial self-absorption and angst. We’ve seen that before, embodied by everyone in young Hollywood from Kristen Stewart to Jesse Eisenberg, but rarely has a movie embraced the unlikeability of its characters in such a wholehearted way. Allie and Harper truly may be the most oblivious, self-entitled twits to ever grace a movie screen, but when they’re spouting truly inspired lines like, “I didn’t believe her personality choice,” or “They are so boring, they’re like chapters in a book it’s OK to skip,” who cares. They may be objectionable on almost every level, but as it turns out they’re also starring in the year’s most quotable movie.
McNulty and Elliott (daughter of Chris Elliott, granddaughter of Bob and Ray) have the chemistry of people who have known one another forever, they have a rapport but when things take a turn and the ugly side of resentment bubbles up, they go at it as only close friends can. They’re Kardashians on steroids and every one of their “OMGs” both alienates them from and endears them to the audience.
At the end of the journey “Fort Tilden” is a story not about two cruel and narcissistic young people, but about a pair of women whose so-hip-it-hurts exteriors hide delicate inner lives plagued by neediness and self doubt. What begins in the shallow end of the story pool ends in the deep end, showing empathy for characters who, themselves, have little of that virtue.