FROM THE WRITERS OF IRON MAN AND CHILDREN OF MEN
Guy Pearce (Memento, L.A. Confidential), Piper Perabo (Coyote Ugly) and Academy Award© Winner* J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, Spider-Man 1-3) star in this intriguing thriller about a man whose life spins out of control after psychic tells him his days are numbered. After his car breaks down in a desolate town, a slick salesman, Jimmy Starks (Pearce), visits a fortune teller (Simmons) to kill some time. But the psychic’s ominous reading sends Jimmy’s life into a tailspin when he learns that his life will soon end, but he is safe at least, until the first snow of the season. Now, with his ultimate fate looming nearer, Jimmy becomes obsessed with revisiting his past in hopes of changing his destiny before it’s too late.
*J,K. Simmons, 2014, Supporting Actor, Whiplash
Special Features May Not Be Rated, Closed Captioned Or In High Definition.
Blending noirish mystery and big questions about fate in an evocative Southwestern landscape, ”First Snow” is a first-rate psychological thriller. Guy Pearce, no newcomer to playing a man obsessed, adds another exquisite performance to his resume as Jimmy Starks, the tightly wound Type A personality who unravels trying to forestall his death foretold. Dealing with nothing less than our awareness of mortality, the film is a genre riff with something to say. Every scene of the vivid drama pulses with the question of how we choose to live — whether we treat that awareness as a gift or a curse.
First-time helmer Mark Fergus and his writing partner, Hawk Ostby — two of the credited scripters on ”Children of Men” and the upcoming ”Iron Man” — use elegant storytelling to craft an involving and provocative tale. Upping the impact are the production team’s ace contributions, particularly Eric Edwards’ atmospheric widescreen lensing of New Mexico locations and Cliff Martinez’s spare, pulse-quickening score. After the film opens March 23 in New York and Los Angeles, positive reviews and word-of-mouth will pave its road to other art-house markets.
The contemporary Southwest, with its big sky, untouched Americana and faux-adobe housing developments, is the perfect setting for a story in which nostalgia is the source of both hope and doom. Pearce’s Jimmy is a longhaired rebel in a suit, an Albuquerque flooring salesman with plans to make a small fortune selling vintage Wurlitzer jukeboxes. Waiting for his car to be repaired in a desolate high-desert town — really just a collection of trailers and vending stands — he kills time buying a $10 fortune from Vacaro (J.K. Simmons). The laconic fortuneteller assures Jimmy that his business venture will succeed, but when a momentary seizure takes hold of him during the reading, he won’t explain to Jimmy what he saw that disturbed him so.
Back home, Jimmy finds the good things Vacaro predicted coming true, one by one. But seeing the fortuneteller’s abilities validated, Jimmy can’t rest until he knows the details of the flip side. Back at Vacaro’s trailer, he insists on a second reading, and the reluctant man tells him that his time will run out with the first snow.
Thus begins the jangle-nerved Jimmy’s restless search for the cause of his impending demise. The world becomes charged with omen. A medical checkup detects a possible heart problem. He senses ill intent from Andy (Rick Gonzalez), recently fired from the flooring company. In the static on the other end of persistent phone calls to his home, he hears something threatening. But it’s when he learns that an old friend has been released from prison that Jimmy believes he has found the source of that dark blotch on his lifeline. Trying to prevent a fatal encounter with Vince, the single-minded Jimmy indirectly initiates contact with the troubled man and sets off a series of cataclysmic events. Along the way, he confides not in his increasingly alienated girlfriend, Deirdre (Piper Perabo), but in his skeptical co-worker and pal Ed (an excellent William Fichtner).
The actors, all strong, give the lyrical but never artificial dialogue the ring of life. Pearce is riveting as a go-getter who finds himself trapped between a murky past and a future defined by ambition. And well before his nemesis Vince appears onscreen, Shea Whigham makes the character a menacing presence in quietly chilling phone messages and conversations with Jimmy. Even so, the question of Jimmy’s sanity is never far from the surface, and Fichtner is especially enjoyable as a foil for the unhinged protagonist.
–Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter
Some people discovered Australian actor Guy Pearce playing a transvestite performer in 1994’s ”The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”
Others waited until Curtis Hanson’s Oscar-nominated ”L.A. Confidential, ” in which he played the good cop to Russell Crowe’s bad cop.
And still others didn’t register this multi-faceted actor until Christopher Nolan’s ”Memento, ” that backwards film noir starring Pearce as a man trying to overcome short-term memory loss to catch his wife’s killer.
Add to those indelible performances of men going their own way Pearce’s portrayal of New Mexico flooring salesman and all-around hustler Jimmy in Mark Fergus’ confident, mesmerizing ”First Snow.”
Jimmy appears at the very start of the film, sitting dazed in his car with blood streaking down his face from a cut on his forehead. Fergus will bring us back to Jimmy at the end of the movie, after we’ve learned what got him to this point, and leave us wondering whether anything he had done in the weeks before could have altered this scene.
”First Snow” is a rumination on fate, and it gets its running start when the brash and highly skeptical Jimmy has his fortune read by an old man (J.K. Simmons) set up in a Silver Stream trailer at a desert road stop where Jimmy’s car is being repaired.
When two predictions given by the psychic come true, Jimmy becomes obsessed with the alarming third prediction – that he may not live through the coming winter’s first snow.
Soon, he has reason to believe that somebody wants to kill him – maybe the co-worker he had to fire, maybe his one-time best friend Vincent (Shea Whigham), an ex-con who blames Jimmy for his unhinged life – and that he has to take action before the flakes begin to fall.
Jimmy’s psychological disintegration goes through Kubler-Ross’ five stages of dying – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – and Pearce shifts through these gears with seamless intensity. This is first-rate work from a talented actor who is fated to become a star.
–Jack Matthews, New York Daily News