Guys like Phillip (Brian Hasenfus)—a little long in the tooth and bloated in the cheek to be picking up insecure high school girls and dealing to their workout-obsessed boyfriends—are a staple of the white, lower-middle-class suburbs, on-screen and off-. In Phillip the Fossil, writer/director Garth Donovan attempts to penetrate the winking persona of the perv emeritus, as epitomized by Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused. Donovan, who cast non-actors and shot on location in a small town in New England, strikes a tone of discomfiting restlessness by pitting frenetic, handheld camerawork against the stagnancy of the local lifestyle. The inner circle of Phillip, a landscaper by day, consists almost solely of teenagers looking for their next hookup, whether sexual or steroidal. The girls, especially Summer (Angela Pagliarulo), the spurned girlfriend of college-football hopeful Sully (J.R. Killigrew), are treated with normalized contempt: Pornography plays like background music on computer screens, and relationships run on beer and distilled desperation. The other roughly sketched central players, including a disturbed Iraq veteran (Nick Dellaroca), grow vivid in relation to their setting and each other. Donovan’s idiosyncratic approach to character develops a compelling rhythm, but the film falters when a dramatic double climax pushes it past its low-key limits.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 13, 2011