Austin-based comedy ‘Arlo and Julie’ shines


The Austin-based comedy “Arlo and Julie” was one of the most pleasant surprises at 2014’s South by Southwest Film Festival, and it’s finally being released in Austin theaters. Director Steve Mims, who teached at the University of Texas, previously was at the festival in 2011 as the co-director of “Incendiary: The Willingham Case.”

Arlo (Alex Dobrenko) works at a software company, but his passion is in writing about history. When the movie begins, he’s celebrating a $25 check that has arrived in the mail from the publisher of a piece he’s done about Ulysses S. Grant and the Civil War. His girlfriend Julie (Ashley Spillers) works as a waitress, and they live a quiet and rather unassuming life near campus.

The film is broken up into title cards indicating how many days into the story we are. On Day 2, Julie gets an envelope in the mail with a puzzle piece in it. This keeps developing, day after day, until the couple have befriended their mailman who also happens to be a Civil War enthusiast. As they wait, not so patiently, for the mail to be delivered each day they begin to lose focus of anything else happening around them. By Day 12, they have several hundred puzzle pieces spread out on a dining room table, knowing that they’ll never be satisfied until the puzzle is solved and they can determine why this is happening.

In the meantime, Alex learns that a painting that’s hanging in their modest living room and was given to Julie by her aunt is actually worth up to $1.2 million. By slowly connecting the dots, they begin to realize that the puzzle pieces might have a connection to the valuable work of art. It takes quite a few more days to figure it all out, but along the way they have a road trip that tests their relationship and makes them question all of their sleuthing up to that point.

Dobrenko and Spillers are delightful in their leading roles. Their comic timing is flawless, and they have a tremendous chemistry, pushing the story forward even as it starts to get a little wacky.

On a technical level, the film’s widescreen cinematography handsomely captures the city of Austin on a limited budget, and Mims uses music from old 78s — all in the public domain to boot — to underscore the film’s screwball comedy inspirations. Eighteen members of the crew were University of Texas students, as Mims has taught in the RTF department for more than 15 years. They built sound stages on campus and also shot on location around town.

“Arlo and Julie” is wonderfully charming and a fine example of our creative community at work.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Movies & TV

Eagles guitarist Glenn Frey's widow files wrongful death lawsuit against New York hospital
Eagles guitarist Glenn Frey's widow files wrongful death lawsuit against New York hospital

The widow of late Eagles guitarist Glenn Frey is suing the New York City hospital that treated her husband before his death in 2016. According to Reuters, Cindy Frey filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing Mount Sinai Hospital and gastroenterologist Steven Itzkowitz of negligence while treating the musician, who had ulcerative colitis, in late 2015. >>...
Brussels sprouts can be the apple of picky eater's eye
Brussels sprouts can be the apple of picky eater's eye

Roasting Brussels sprouts until they are deeply browned and their outer leaves have crisped is one of the most enticing ways to cook them. The method has turned around countless Brussels sprout naysayers, including my husband, who gobbles them up prepared this way but cannot stand them steamed. The accompanying recipe builds on that trusty basic, adding...
Small changes for the new year
Small changes for the new year

It's January, and in most of the country, too cold to think about taking a walk outside to get our steps for the day in. Yet, we've all made those New Year's Resolutions to eat healthier, move more and take charge of our health. We're excited about making a fresh start. It's so easy to get derailed and feel defeated. Baby steps are the way to go when...
Do parents make kids fat?
Do parents make kids fat?

As parents, do we determine our children’s eating habits? There’s a lot of blame when it comes to childhood obesity, eating disorders and body image problems, but how much do we actually know about what works to help children eat and grow in a healthy way? Back in November, I wrote about the issue of fat stigma, and the bad things that...
What’s on the menu for 2018? Check out these food trends
What’s on the menu for 2018? Check out these food trends

It’s amusing — and instructive — to scan the food and dining trend forecasts that pop up at the beginning of each new year.  Let’s start by agreeing that the following information doesn’t necessarily enjoy an enduring relationship with reality.   Which is why it’s called “forecasting.”...
More Stories