Thursday, April 17, 2014

Case Study No. 1372: Betty Bonhauser and Nikki Reynolds

Shelf Life Trailer
Trailer for the feature film, Shelf Life. Starring Betsy Brandt of Breaking Bad
"Tamar Halpern's whip smart "Shelf Life" taps into a fresh source for American Comedy" - Variety
Available on netflix
Tags: Shelf Life cute girls lazy eye movie Trailer Comedy Tamar Halpern Library Humor tamaroland variety Betsy Brandt Ryan Spahn Elisa Bocanegra Joe Smith Bill Jones Jordan Micheal McTaggart Breaking Bad Avery Clyde
Added: 7 years ago
From: tamaroland
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Needs More Nudity Productions presents
A film by Tamar Halpern

Everyone has an expiration date ...

Shelf Life

Available on DVD at



Tamar Halpern's whip-smart "Shelf Life" posits the public library as a war zone between a free spirit and a power-addled librarian, and taps into a fresh source for American comedy. Before its female combatants exit on a startling note of metaphysical freedom, pic is a lean, elemental clash of characters that can be read as standing in for the country's larger cultural battles. Prime for fest circulation, Halpern's second feature will draw considerably more attention than her debut, "Memphis Bound and Gagged."

Black-garbed, slightly punkish Nikki Reynolds (Betsy Brandt) is ready to face off with head librarian Betty Bonhauser (Elisa Bocanegra) in a typically bland library that Betty rules like a self-appointed potentate, when, suddenly, the pair -- bedraggled and dirty -- is shown trying to explain themselves (in direct address to the camera) to their unseen boss behind a huge executive desk.

This is pic's "Rashomon" nod, as each claim by Betty is matched by Nikki, illustrated in flashbacks. Nikki arrives to work at the library as part of her overall drug recovery program, which includes having to live at home with her odd mom (Holgie Forrester) and pee in a cup on a daily basis. Betty's instantly suspicious of her and resents Nikki's supposedly special handling care of her Uncle Tommy (William Jones), a local pol running for mayor.

When Betty accuses Nikki of stealing a dictionary and summons Sgt. Knofelmacher (Bonnie J. Kirk), Nikki enlists the moral support of insecure assistant librarian Ronald (Joe Smith, in a sweetly hilarious comic turn). The clash escalates, with Nikki's on-and-off beau Jarrett (Ryan Spahn) ending up in bed with Betty.

It's hard to remember another movie that has turned library storytelling sessions for kids into a rebellious act, or that lends the mere reading of a book (in this case, Philip Roth's "Portnoy's Complaint") the weight of a life-changing event. If anything dampens pic's pleasures, it's Bocanegra's forced airs as the huffy Betty in a perf that plays all the way to the back of the house and beyond.

On the other hand, Brandt (also in Halpern's "Memphis") wins hearts with a breezy charm that works as effectively on auds as it does on Ronald. Halpern's filmmaking remains cool throughout, a nice match for Steve Elkin's clean lensing.

Pic has no connection to the late Paul Bartel's 1993 feature of the same name.



In this dark comedy of petty office politics in a library, it's the Head Librarian versus the Book Shelver in an all-out, deadly war of the wills.

A small branch library, a territorial head librarian and a recovering drug addict bookshelver. May the best woman win this war of catfights, false accusations and competing story time circles.

Cast: Betsy Brandt, Elisa Bocanegra, Joe Smith, Ryan Spahn, William Jones, Bonnie J. Kirk, Holgie Forrester, Jordan Halpern, Michael McTaggert, Rick Ankrom

Writer/Director: Tamar Halpern
Producers: Tamar Halpern, Liz Leifer, Robin Muir
Cinematographer: Steve Elkins



Nikki's Mom: How are things at the book depository?
Nikki: It's a library, Mom.
Nikki's Mom: Are you having fun there?
Nikki: It's a gas.


Nikki: I can't just take off like that, Jarrett.
Jarrett: Why, what's keeping you here? Your pathetic little book-shelving job?


Betty: The library is closed!
Nikki: Unlock the door, Betty ...
Betty: You took over my library!
Nikki: It's not your library!

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