A Birder’s Guide to Everything
If one were to cross a low-key modern American indie with a 1980s coming of age road comedy, you would get something close to the amusing and thoughtful debut feature from Rob Meyer, A Birder’s Guide to Everything. Both a better breed of teen movie than audiences normally get and assuredly a better comedy about bird watching than The Big Year was a few years back, Meyer never plays his story too outlandishly to be unbelievable and packs it with some great writing and performances that speak to just how awkward it is to be a teenager.
Kodi Smit-McPhee gives a great leading performance as David, a birder who would much rather be off tracking down a potentially extinct duck that he saw instead of being dragged kicking and screaming into being the best man for his father’s wedding over the weekend. With the help of his school’s birding society buddies, a motormouthed horndog (Alex Wolff) and a procedure minded nerd (Michael Chen), and a photographer (Katie Chang) who tags along in exchange for not ratting on them stealing her equipment, the friends head out from New York to Connecticut to track down the migrating bird before it’s gone forever.
Minus a subplot about the car they “borrowed” being potentially tied to drug runners (which is an amusing, but slight sidetrack in the story), Meyer creates a nice sense of bonding among his cast to give his material a naturally relaxed feel. It never paints its characters as nerds or outcasts and never really forces them to have any truly clichéd showdowns with high school bullies. These are simply people on a journey, and that simplicity goes a long way. It’s also worth it for nice supporting performances from James LeGros as David’s increasingly frustrated father and Ben Kingsley as the local birding guru the boys look to for advice.
Sunday, February 16th, 4:15pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox