A review of “First Snow” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ** 1/2

Rating: R for language and some violence

Run Time: 1 hour, 41 minutes

 

 

Guy Pearce channels his infamous “Memento” man for another round of psychological shenanigans.

“Snow” delves into the concept of fate with a mixture of pretension and trepidation, craftily cultivating a tale of a snaky flooring salesman whose life makes an abrupt U-turn.

Jimmy Starks (Pearce) is making the rounds when his car breaks down outside of Albuquerque. While Starks waits on the repairs he kills some time by parting with $10 to have his fortune told.

The fortune-teller (perpetual scene-stealer J.K. Simmons as Vacaro) moves through his routine with charming country guile, mildly foretelling of a financial windfall from Dallas and the unlikely outcome of a professional basketball game.

Just as suddenly Vacaro goes into a seizure, breaking off the connection and insisting that Starks take his money back.

Just a trailer park lark, or is it? Surprisingly, Vacaro’s predictions come to pass and Starks can’t shake the palpable dread that settles over him like New Mexican prairie dust.

Stark’s best friend (William Fitchtner) and his main squeeze (Piper Perabo) encourage him to let it go. Undeterred Starks tracks down Vacaro and puts a gun to his head, insisting that he reveal the vision that upset his equilibrium and altered his mild-mannered outlook.

With knowledge in hand (and better left unsaid in this review) a gaunt and embittered Starks is forced to confront some hard truths about himself, his past and his future.

Writer/director Mark Fergus packs his little indie thriller with as much off-kilter emotion as he can squeeze into one hundred minutes. It’s a shrewd debut with some brilliant moments and niggling pacing problems as Starks’ paranoia escalates and a tidal wave of guilt, fear and betrayal threaten to engulf him.

Can one man chase down his own destiny and alter the outcome? “Snow” speaks to metaphysical mysteries best left unsolved.