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Review: ‘The Plagiarists’ is an adventurous comic thumping

Eamon Monaghan in “The Plagiarists”
Eamon Monaghan in “The Plagiarists.”
(Kimstim)

Jagged and acrid, yet also slippery and provocative, “The Plagiarists” is a micro-indie talkathon with the edge of something forcibly overheard but fragmented, as if you’d been thrown into a cramped rideshare with many discursive routes and no obvious destination. Which is also likely the point of this anti-movie of a satire directed by Peter Parlow and written by James N. Kienitz Wilkins and Robin Schavoir.

The opinionated pair dominating this inquisitive space are cash-strapped artists Tyler (Eamon Monaghan) and Anna (Lucy Kaminsky), a young white couple helped by a kind older black man named Clip (William Michael Payne) after their car breaks down in the countryside.

Marking the sidetracked overnight stay are exchanges about art, dreams and life — Anna’s a struggling novelist inspired by their host’s wise, poetic expressions of childhood, Tyler’s a wannabe filmmaker emboldened by Clip’s stash of vintage camcorders. Six months later, Anna’s discovery of a familiar-sounding passage in a famous memoir spurs a sense of dread, that perhaps Clip had coopted someone else’s words when waxing nostalgic.

But her tinny outrage and Tyler’s own dogmatic logorrhea begin to feel like exhibits in a playfully prickly riff on the inauthentic, the massaged and the cagily appropriated when telling stories. The movie’s own awkward meta clues — the videotape look, the offbeat music, willfully choppy editing — are signals we’ve been lured into an intellectual art exercise rather than something conventional. And yet “The Plagiarists” is still an adventurous comic thumping worth the working over of your sensibilities.

'The Plagiarists'
Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 16 minutes

Playing: Aug. 30-Sept. 2, Laemmle Ahrya Fine Arts, Beverly Hills
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