Screwball Romantic Comedy or Noirish Murder Mystery? Yes.

Sophia Takal and Lawrence Michael Levine, NYC, 6/18/14

Sophia Takal and Lawrence Michael Levine, NYC, 6/18/14

Subject to fits of exuberance (which include jumping up and down) and pique (which include jumping up and down), Barri (Sophia Takal), is adored by her fiancé Noah (Lawrence Michael Levine), whose affect is much more subdued. He “loves her crazy energy.” His “excessive drinking and terrible driving” don’t diminish her ardor. The duo has great chemistry.

“Wild Canaries,” written and directed by Levine and produced by real-life spouse Takal, begins as a quotidian tale of the mostly young occupants of a small Brooklyn building.  But when Barri, arriving to give a chess lesson, discovers their elderly downstairs neighbor Sylvia (MaryLouise Burke) dead on the bedroom floor, the proceedings take a hilarious turn for the sinister.

Convinced that Sylvia was the victim of murder (most foul), Barri goes full-on Nancy Drew (adorable in a beige trench coat and khaki bucket hat pulled down low)–breaking and entering, trailing suspects, snooping.  When Noah, bemused, insists that nothing seems unusual to him about Sylvia, 80+, dying, Barri enlists the couple’s close friend and roommate, Jean (Alia Shawkat), to help her crack the case.

Suspects emerge and recede as another body (part, actually ) is discovered. A laid-back dub reggae score by Michael Montes pairs perfectly with the manic goings-on. Noah and his attractive his ex-girlfriend Eleanor (Annie Parisse), now living with a woman (he says, “I annoyed the straight out of you”) get swept up into the proceedings; two running gags (Noah’s serial injuries/general hypochondria and his inability to wrangle his new cell phone), funny throughout, cleverly advance the plot; car and foot chases ensue; and the group tracks down the killer, executing what Barri characterizes as a “very dangerous plan based on a hunch.”

“Wild Canaries” will open on Wednesday, February 25 at the IFC Center. Lawrence Michael Levine, Sophia Takal and cast members Jason Ritter and Kevin Corrigan will in person at the 7:50 pm show on opening night and on Thursday, February 26.  The film will open in Los Angeles and Seattle on Friday, March 6 and in Miami on Friday, March 13.

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