‘Giants Being Lonely’ Review: Indie Filmmaking Being Twee

Starting with its title, appropriated from a Carl Sandburg poem, “Giants Being Lonely” aims to capture something precious about adolescence and American beauty. (Unlike in Sandburg, the “Giants” in question are a high school baseball team.) But nothing concrete emerges from this haze of oblique editing and barely written scenes, acted by cast members who are not up to making the dialogue sound convincing or filling the voids left in place of their characters.

In his feature writing-directing debut, the mixed-media artist Grear Patterson mines a vein of twee indie lyricism that recalls the early films of David Gordon Green (“George Washington”) and a hint of the prurience of another art-world figure turned filmmaker, Larry Clark (“Kids”). The movie is set in a Southern town where inhibitions run low. It’s the sort of place where a teenager casually climbs up onto a rusty pipe bridge, strips naked and jumps into the stream below, in front of his peers.

“Giants Being Lonely” is not an especially plot-driven film, and describing what happens does it no favors. Bobby (Jack Irving), the Giants’ hot shot pitcher, is the ensemble’s marginal first among equals — so talented and magical that Patterson has him pitch a perfect game midway through.

By that point, Bobby has already started sleeping with a teammate’s mother (Amalia Culp). Notwithstanding the queasy age and power imbalance between them, the affair is a bad idea because she’s married to the coach (Gabe Fazio), an abusive father to Adam (Ben Irving, Jack’s brother), Bobby’s fellow ballplayer. The coach’s profanity-fueled pep talks are so over-the-top they suggest overcompensation, either by him or by Patterson as a screenwriter.

Then there is Caroline (Lily Gavin), who wholesomely flirts with Bobby (“Bobby, did you listen to the rain this morning?” she asks. “Yeah. Did you?” he replies) and whom Adam plans to ask to the prom.

When Bobby requests a sick note from the school nurse so he can skip practice and re-bed the coach’s wife, it becomes difficult to take “Giants Being Lonely” seriously, although the trancelike mood (replete with indiscriminate zooms and shots that dwell on natural scenery) could be cited as a defense against claims of implausibility. Another problem is the casting of brothers as non-brothers: The blond-maned jocks Bobby and Adam are, in personality and appearance, tough to distinguish. Both look like they’ve been run through a McConaughifer that left out the charisma.

The most glaring flaw, though, is the ending, which is so horrific and unearned as to be grotesque. Its suddenness is arguably part of the point: Patterson has said he was inspired by a traumatic event from his own time in high school. But if what happened is anything like what’s onscreen, the film’s inability to make sense of it is all the more pitiable.

Giants Being Lonely
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 21 minutes. In theaters and on FandangoNow, Vudu and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.

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