Greetings again from the darkness. Every new independent film offers the hope of discovering an exciting new writer, director or actor … someone who will bring a new edge to the world of filmmaking. Of course, not every new film is ground-breaking, and sometimes we have to be pretty observant to spot a glimmer of shiny new gold.
The feature film debut from director Liz Hinlein proves she and her cinematographer Edward Button each have the eye of a photographer, as the beauty of many of the shots provide the feel of a better movie than what we are watching.
Diane Marshall-Green stars as Sam, a wannabe filmmaker whose life is in a downward spiral with no direction following the death of her famous painter father Frank Trassler (Scott Patterson, who baseball fans will remember as McGrevey in Little Big League). A happenstance coffee shop meet provides Sam with a subject for her new documentary … a homeless young man named P.K. (Chad Michael Murray). Sam takes to photographing and interviewing P.K. and his fellow young homeless group. In the blink of an eye, her loft apartment is transformed into a crash pad for all homeless peeps that cross paths with P.K. and his band of misfits.
Sam and P.K. quickly fall into a relationship, and … well … basically the whole thing is simply too neat and tidy to buy into. There is nothing realistic or gritty or believable about these homeless folks. They all look like Hollywood actors with great hair and make-up … only dressed down with tattered clothes. To his credit, Chad Michael Murray appears to have lost a significant amount of weight to pull off the drug addict physique (well except for the sculpted abs and biceps), it’s just unfortunate that he’s too darned attractive to pull off the living-on-the-streets kid. Diane Marshall-Green has a delightful onscreen persona (and she is very pleasant to look at), it’s just that she doesn’t yet have the acting chops to elevate the material and unrealistic setting.
The best supporting work comes courtesy of Harrison Thomas (“Banshee”) as Eddie and Alyssa Diaz (“Ray Donovan”) as Trina. Once again, they are both entirely too attractive and polished for their life on the street, however, they do bring an element of intrigue to their limited roles. In fact, there is hardly a grungy moment in the film (other than beer bottles strewn about the apartment), which doesn’t really work … even for the homeless in always sunny Los Angeles. We know suffering is a daily challenge for the homeless, and a movie about them shouldn’t gloss over this.
So while the film probably won’t shake up the movie industry or shatter box office records, there are a few nuggets here that provide some hope for future projects. Notably director Liz Hinlein, and actors Diane Marshall-Green, Harrison Thomas and Alyssa Diaz are a few to keep an eye on.
Opens in New York on Friday, Jan. 1 and on VOD Tuesday, January 5.