The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Wild Girl Waltz (2012)
Mark Lewis, writer/director of Wild Girl Waltz, contacted me about reviewing his film. It's the kind of film we often don't get an opportunity to look at here, which intrigued me; plus, it was shot and set in Western Massachusetts, an area that I kind of knew, being that it's about 2 and 1/2 hours from where I grew up. I also liked the trailer, and I always like to look at a submission from a low-budget film maker. Let's see how it went.
Wild Girl Waltz stars Samantha Steinmetz and Christina Shipp play Tara and Angie, friends in a small town in Western Mass who decide on one lazy Saturday to take some goofy pills. Enter Brian, played by Jared Stern, who's Tara's boyfriend and Angie's older brother. He's now in charge of them, in part because he's been press-ganged into babysitting duties, and in part because he has nothing better going on and he enjoys their company.
I liked this. It did, like any drug induced high, come down near the end and lose a lot of its steam, but overall it was funny and worth watching. I especially liked the chemistry between Steinmetz and Shipp, but Stern worked well too with them. It's funny, you wouldn't think a movie at 82 minutes long would need to be shorter, but between the extended opening credits sequence, where we have a country song that plays in its entirety and kills the film's early momentum; and the end where we've lost too much steam and the bad decisions the trio made earlier don't have any repercussions, I think 65-70 minutes would have been better. But that also means that 75 percent of this film is great, and in that sense I think this is worth it.
I'm not sure if you've heard of the Bechdel Test for movies (you can check it out on Wikipedia), but it has three components: first, the film has two named women; second, they talk to each other; and third, about something other than a man. You'd be surprised how few films meet such simple criteria, but I'm not sure if any out of the almost 900 films I've reviewed to this point meet the test until Wild Girl Waltz. And the thing is, there isn't a sense here that Mark Lewis was trying for that specifically, or that he was using it as a gimmick. He made a very funny movie about two female characters that were well-written and played by two great actresses. Due to the bias in Hollywood against films that meet the Bechdel Test, I have a feeling if Lewis brought this script to a big studio, they'd have asked him to change one of the women to a man, and that would've ruined the dynamic that I'm about to get into below. On the other hand, I'm a straight male, and I did not go running from the TV because two women were on-screen carrying on a funny conversation about something other than a guy. Come on Hollywood, put more women in your movies, we can handle it.
One thing I liked about the character breakdown, was that each of the characters could potentially feel left out from the relationships that the other two have. With Brian, he's not the best friends Tara and Angie are, and is the only guy in the group. We find out as the film goes on that he's not exactly an alpha male, and the girls let him be more of who he is than the guys in their small town, yet he's still a guy, and feels outnumbered at times. Angie is single, and looks at the relationship between Brian and Tara as something she's separate from. Then there's Brian and Angie who are siblings, and there's that family bond that Tara isn't a part of when the three of them are together. It's almost something that I would've liked to have seen explored more, but I didn't mind that it was developed more in the background either.
This film is in the tradition of Kevin Smith's Clerks, which I saw in the theater almost 20 years ago, but it was lacking in some ways that that classic wasn't. For instance, in Clerks, even though it had an episodic nature, decisions the characters made had an impact later on. While on some levels that happens here, for the major incidents, it doesn't, which, again, makes the ending feel like it's spinning its wheels. In fact, had those decisions come home to roost, we could've had more exciting humorous scenes, and based on how well the ones we did have worked, it's disappointing that those others were left on the table-- or not even conceived, as it were. Maybe in real life not everything has consequences, but in a movie they should, otherwise we wonder why something's there in the first place.
Despite the fact that the beginning was a little drawn out, it did have some great establishing shots that both put us in Western Mass, but also put us in Any Small Town, USA, which gave the film a universality that I liked-- and one could make the point that the scenes that met the Bechdel Test were also very common everyday America, which made them all the more relatable, and all the crazier that Hollywood finds scenes like that so offensive that they reject them in a script. There were some elements that I, having some understanding of the area, could recognize, like the tension between big city Eastern Mass and the rural West, but these weren't things anyone would need to understand to understand the film. Any inside jokes Lewis might have written in were not there at the expense of the universal elements, and I liked that. Sometimes no-budget indie writer/directors get caught up in these inside jokes, and it was good that Lewis didn't let that happen.
As far as I can tell, to get this you need to contact Mark Lewis, which you can do through the film's website: http://www.wildgirlwaltz.com/. I really enjoyed this. It wasn't perfect, but it had plenty of laugh out loud moments, which is what you want from a comedy. Worth checking out if you get the chance.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2375232/