Tribeca Festival : ‘Lake George’ is a Fun Crime Comedy with a Great Cast

Tribeca Festival : ‘Lake George’ is a Fun Crime Comedy with a Great Cast
Tribeca Festival

Starting over is never easy, and feeling the pull of a problematic past can threaten any future success. Getting out of prison often leaves newly freed individuals with nothing, forcing them to disclose their incarceration to potential employers and slowly earn back the trust of anyone they may still have in their lives. Associating with the same elements that led to their imprisonment is rarely a good idea but still often remains the only option, a shortcut to a new life that almost never comes without strings or unintended consequences. Lake George follows one such individual who finds that he is very much not in control of his fate after going to the wrong person for help.

Don (Shea Whigham) sits in a motel making phone calls to those who told him to call when he got out of prison, quickly learning that there are no promised jobs available and some of the contacts he was given are no longer even alive. He boards a bus to knock on the door of Armen (Glenn Fleshler), an intimidating figure who Don believes owes him money from before he was sent to prison. It turns out that Armen also thinks Don owes him, and to pay his debt, he tasks him with killing Armen’s girlfriend, Phyllis (Carrie Coon), who he wants out of the way. That job turns out to be more complicated than expected when Phyllis refuses to be killed, suggesting instead that she can help Don steal some of Armen’s money to ensure that he’s set for life.

The best assets in Lake George are its two stars. Whigham is doing a version of the disgruntled, unenthusiastic character he portrayed in Boardwalk Empire, far less memorable than his turns in Gaslit or Homecoming. It’s a suitable approach to the part since Don is meant to be somewhat pathetic, incapable of taking charge of his life and far too deferential to those who don’t have his best interests at heart. Coon, a TV veteran of The Leftovers, The Gilded Age, and Fargo, has more than enough energy to make up for him, presenting Phyllis as an incessant chatterbox who knows that every moment she keeps talking is another moment that she stays alive. They make for a great pair whose scenes are laced with humor.

In addition to Coon’s superb turn and Whigham’s appropriately subdued work, Lake George smartly casts its two supporting roles. Fleshler, Wihgham’s costar on Boardwalk Empire, has made himself known in parts that would have otherwise been considered unextraordinary on that series and in Billions and Barry, among other appearances, by merging humor with terror, and he does the same thing here. Max Casella, no stranger to mob-adjacent material thanks to The Sopranos and Tulsa King, is clearly having fun as Armen’s henchman Harout, who has a flair for nice views, nice cars, and nice clothes. Enhancing those two roles helps make this film an entirely effective viewing experience.

Writer-director Jeffrey Reiner has amassed an impressive list of credits, primarily behind the camera for TV series and TV movies. Though he’s only penned a few teleplays and screenplays, he’s evidently been paying attention to how to create characters and tell stories in an engaging and creative way. The setup here is rather simplistic but the plot takes on a life of its own as its two protagonists meet and reluctantly realize than they may be the key to each other’s survival. It’s a film that includes sharp dialogue and a few clever twists, improving upon a genre that’s all too often prone to predictable developments and an expected direction by pumping a healthy dose of freshness into it.

Grade: B+

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Lake George makes its world premiere in the Spotlight Narrative section at the 2024 Tribeca Festival.

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