Director: Casey Tebo
Cast: Matt Bush, Britne Oldford, Vanessa Lengies, Riley Litman, Steven Tyler, Erik Palladino, Matt Willig, Robert Miano, Sean McKittrick, Robert Deleo
Running Time: 89 minutes
Director/writer Casey Tebo has a clear intention with his debut feature; to make you question what’s going on. HAPPY BIRTHDAY revolves around Brady (Bush) who, after discovering his girlfriend’s cheating on him on his birthday, is taken away by friend Tommy (Litman) to Mexicali for a time he’ll never forget. What ensues is the typical Mexico-is-crazy plot but with a twist.
As a debut feature, Tebo couldn’t be more assured. He brings a style to proceedings that impacts the picture in a very visceral manner, it’s in-your-face and always done for the amusement of the audience. Yet, he brings a flair to plot with his direction and always keeps focussed upon. At times he has the frame mirror the trippy and hazy experiences of our unknowing protagonist, almost as if he’s taking us on this ride with Brady.
For those who are aware, things are telegraphed early on, but Tebo does a nice job with the script to keep the twists and turns coming so you’re never fully sure you have a firm grasp on what’s going on, even if you think you do. The performances all around are great too and help the selling of the film because they never really give anything away, always believing what’s going on which is especially true in the third act. Steven Tyler is a fun presence in the film, enjoying his rambling loony character to its fullest.
What lasts, however, is how impressive Tebo is with HAPPY BIRTHDAY. The film never sits on one particular genre and at times moves between being a comedy and horror, dancing in the psychedelic realm as easy as it does the meta, self-aware one.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY is incredibly confident and Tebo’s direction and script really make you not want to look away. You don’t want to a miss a thing, you could say.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY is on limited release in US cinemas and VOD from Friday, September 9th.