FIN FEST REVIEW: Outrageous comedy Lemon Squeezy a delightful, light-hearted debut

There’s a breezy, aloof quality to filmmaker Kevin Hartford that’s almost impossible not to enjoy.

Every interview I’ve done with Kevin has felt like a conversation with an old friend, and he has a way of welcoming you into his whacky, entirely jovial headspace that’s admirable.

He reminds me of the type of person you’d follow into an ill-advised adventure, if only because you know that no matter how it ends, he’ll make it a hell of a lot of fun. With his debut feature Lemon Squeezy, I had absolutely no issue diving headfirst into this absurd little piece, and I was rewarded because I did.

It’s not for everyone, but If the premise makes you chuckle, then chances are this one is for you. It follows Max, a young, gay teenager with absolutely no experience with men.

He doesn’t even think twice about calling a 27-year-old blue-collar man who’d done some work on his parents’ house and asking him to the prom. When he’s rejected, though, Max spirals.

After turning to religion, he soon begins to suspect that strange happenings around him are because he’s accidentally triggered the biblical apocalypse.

Sound absolutely bonkers? It is, but in the best way. Writer-director Hartford’s Lemon Squeezy is not a perfect film. It drags at times, but it’s an admirable effort that proves he has an imagination that will take him places.

The ensemble is wholly entertaining, but it’s the performance from young lead Reilly Brennan that really makes this one shine. He’s so deadpan at points that you can’t help but laugh. He reminded me a little of Napoleon Dynamite, and Lemon Squeezy is a better film because of his pitch-perfect turn as Max.

Hartford’s quirky sensibilities are on full display here, and if you want to close the festival on a lighter note, this one is definitely your best pick.

4/5 Stars

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