Chasing Tail Past His Prime in Phillip the Fossil


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.

Archive Highlights