Writer, Director, and Producer James Bird’s first feature film EAT SPIRIT EAT tells an all too familiar story while still keeping the characters and plot interesting enough to keep the audience entertained for the entire length of the film. Quirky characters and a “can-do” attitude are the recipe for what makes EAT SPIRIT EAT such a pleasure to watch.
The oddness of the characters in this film might not be the big selling point until you really get to know them. At first they come off as actors trying to act like a character. It just seems transparent. But the more you stick with these characters the more they grow on you and the more they develop as real people. Once you’ve made it to the second act of the movie, you’re completely invested in the characters and their adventure. The male lead, Oliver (Owen Williams) is a bit of a man-child with an emptiness in his heart for his father who left to become a famous actor when he was a child. Scenes of Oliver flipping through channels at the foster home he grows up in is heartbreaking but also really sets up how his character behaves as an adult. The rest of the characters, and a whole chunk of this movie actually, appear lifted directly from THE LITTLE RASCALS. Not that that’s a bad thing. This homage and subsequent film industry referential dialogue will appeal not only to mainstream audiences who love an underdog story of a group of “kids” who just want to put on a show, but other filmmakers will also really enjoy this because it really does extol the virtues of what independent film is really all about. A movie like EAT SPIRIT EAT feeds the creative soul, which is precisely what I think the director had in mind when he was filming it.
The female lead Vera (Adriana Mather) and the rest of the supporting cast all have their business in the film, and don’t distract from the plot, which could be an easy thing considering the scope of this ensemble piece. Everyone gets their moment and Vera is a perfect counterpoint to Oliver. Her character is more naive than childlike but quickly jumps in the deep end with Oliver, a man she barely knows, but feels that she has to help. Aside from Vera’s sister Vill (Leah Briese), the rest of the characters are a rag-tag group of orphans from Oliver’s past that he calls in favors to, and they, mostly begrudgingly, fulfill for him.
Finding Oliver’s father seems to be the easy part of the movie. Making him a star and getting him to be in their film is really the conflict in this story. You can tell the director has a passion for independent film because he gets all the tropes right, albeit tongue-in-cheek. They show that making the movie is only half the battle. Getting it seen by an audience is the second half. All audiences are encouraged to join director James Bird in his battle and see EAT SPIRIT EAT at their local film festival or wherever they might be lucky enough to watch it.
EAT SPIRIT EAT Review
Eat Spirit Eat is a whimsical comedy about Oliver, an orphaned boy in search of his father and the family he meets along the way.