|Photo by Andrew Arceri|
|Filmmaker Tom Krueger addresses the audience following Saturday's premeire of You're in Charge.|
You can tell within the first few minutes of meeting Tom Krueger that he loves the Cajun people more than he can put into words. In 2007, he came down from New York to shoot a music video for the Red Stick Ramblers and ended up staying for about five years. “This place makes such a strong impression on people,” he says. “I’ve never experienced such generosity, goodwill and community outside of Acadiana. And instead of being protective of their culture, they want to share it. They just live enthusiastically.”
Tom is a filmmaker who has shot and directed everything from feature films to commercials, music videos, short films and documentaries. He currently lives in Brooklyn, but this past weekend he was back in Lafayette for the world premiere of his new movie, You’re In Charge — an ensemble family comedy filmed entirely in Acadiana with a cast of locals.
You’re In Charge follows Eddie Guidry (Louis C. Norris) on a mission to reinvent himself as a doctor of alternative medicine after his release from prison. He enlists the aid of his brother-in-law Dickie (Toby Rodriguez) and a ditsy intern (Kara St. Clare) to run a practice that processes urine samples. Back home, Dickie’s wife Sam (Caroline Helm) is preparing for an at-home birth with the help of her mother (Mary Kay Place, Being John Malkovich, It’s Complicated).
Norris is a dead ringer for Nick Frost in appearance and delivery, Rodriguez channels a Cajun Jason Bateman, and Helm plays a mash-up of Ellen Page in Juno and Amy Adams in Junebug. But while the guys keep the movie anchored, the women seem to be having all the fun. Between Helm’s anxious mom-to-be, St. Clare’s intern and of course the film’s matriarch played by Place, the ladies squeeze the most out of their screen time. The actors come most alive when they’re frantic or distressed — making me wish they’d team up again to do a horror movie. Seriously, watch any scene in which Helm has a flow-blown freak-out (because there’s a few) and tell me she isn’t screaming to be in a slasher flick.
The single most exciting thing about watching a movie that was filmed where you live is trying to keep an eye out for anything that looks familiar. But in all seriousness, you won’t have to try very hard because you’re basically watching a destination highlight reel for the region. If you’re a local and you don’t recognize any of the scenery, then it’s time to venture outside your house and maybe look across the street. It’s the same with the characters, too. Think of it like this: Krueger and crew (The Crewger?) have made the movie equivalent of Facebook’s “People You May Know.” Trust me, if you’ve lived in Acadiana for more than a few months, you will find yourself trying to place where exactly you’ve seen these men and women before.
In fact, You’re In Charge feels like one big inside joke. Does the main character play an accordion? You bet he does! Do the supporting players volley between English and French? Sure do! Is there a scene in which the characters drink LA31 on a boat in the swamp? Of course there is! But all of this Cajun saturation is not a bad thing. It feels like it belongs to us. It’s a movie made by a transplant as a personal homage to the Cajun family dynamic and the lofty ingenuity we can’t escape. In the film’s second act, there’s a line that goes something like, “People are like tea bags. You never know how strong they are until they’re in hot water.” And if you’re paying half-attention to the film up until that point, you’ll understand Krueger is not just using that as the theme; he’s using it to wink as us as if to say, “I watched y’all. And I get y’all.”
This is clearly Tom’s love letter to Lafayette and it’s oozing with charm. He’s fully embraced the brand of enthusiastic living he first fell in love with. And when the movie ended, he took the stage to roaring applause and said into the microphone, “This is what I wanted.” And I think everyone genuinely believed him.