Editor’s Notes: Fort Tilden is currently open in limited theatrical release.
Needless to say, it’s currently very popular for mean-spirited or cruel human beings to be the subjects of comedy. From It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to Ted 2, we either delight in or detest the antics of such awful people. Those who enjoy this sub-genre, like myself, find lots to love in the cold-heartedly indifferent or awkwardly confrontational interactions populating each scene. Often, it’s entertaining enough just to see how normal people deal with such personalities. But when similar comedies take aim at a type of person, making a statement about or simply maligning them, it can be tough to decide what the filmmaker’s approach is. Take Fort Tilden for example.
Many comedic opportunities can be found here, and they’re definitely acted upon. But, in the entire 98 minute runtime, not an ounce of optimism is seen.
Sarah-Violet Bliss directs this story of two women, Allie and Harper, both shamelessly obnoxious millennials, who are invited by some guys to meet at a beach near (you guessed it) Fort Tilden. Abandoning their prior commitments, they decide to go, and begin a needlessly long journey made strenuous by their ignorant and needy selves. From getting bikes stolen to inadvertently offending kind strangers, what could easily be a simple trip devolves into a whirlwind of gratuitous difficulty. What this all boils down to is a satire of millennials, the kinds of people who can be excessively co-dependent, unfit for the real world, lazy, and lacking in healthy amounts of empathy. Thusly, from scene to scene, Allie and Harper constantly disappoint society by heavily saturating these qualities within themselves. Many comedic opportunities can be found here, and they’re definitely acted upon. But, in the entire 98 minute runtime, not an ounce of optimism is seen. Allie and Harper move from place to place having either a negative or non-existent impact on their surroundings, not showing a single indication of caring, especially not during the film’s final moments. There are supposed attempts to make you sympathize with the two on an instinctual level, but afterward, they go right back to being indifferent.
Sharp visuals do impress, and the leads succeed in their deadpan goals, but what those leads do for 98 minutes grows tiresome.
An illustration of millennials’ elusive emotional stability? Possibly, though it really gives the impression that Sarah-Violet Bliss, at that same age, considers the people Allie and Harper embody lesser than her, and for lack of a better word, kind-of useless. As a result, Fort Tilden can come off more bitter and hopeless than funny, despite good comedic timing and quick editing maintaining the latter. Sharp visuals do impress, and the leads succeed in their deadpan goals, but what those leads do for 98 minutes grows tiresome. They rudely weasel out of urgent situations, minuscule scenarios send them spiraling into confusion, and their largest dramatic arc is set into motion by an Instagram photo. This is the kind of thing that would work best in a comic strip.
As a semi-directorial debut (among many others, Bliss previously co-directed 2014’s The Color of Time) Fort Tilden is not reprehensibly bad, even with its several missteps. It definitely doesn’t feel unfinished, which is a common issue across the films of many budding directors. But much like the millennials it satirizes, it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, and struggles accordingly.
Fort Tilden can come off more bitter and hopeless than funny, despite good comedic timing and quick editing maintaining the latter. But much like the millennials it satirizes, it doesn't quite know what it wants to be, and struggles accordingly.