Jul 14, 2008

Garden Party

I had a chance to go to a screening of this movie before it opened and since I hadn't watched the trailer or read anything about the film it caught me off guard. The premise is that people go through an awful lot to be a success in Hollywood- and the movie follows the paths of a few of those trying to make it. I didn't mind the slightly gratuitous display of skin or the tawdry subject matter that seemed to creep in during seemingly innocent scenes. It didn't even irk me that somehow all of the characters managed to stumble upon one another, effectively making Los Angeles seem like a tiny town with a population of a couple hundred instead of the giant metropolis that it is.

I can accept that there are characters like these running around Hollywood, living on couches and doing odd jobs to pay the rent while waiting for their big break- but here's where it lost me:
If you are going to show the ugly side of something, then make it ugly.

It was a watered down version of what people go through to get by- there was no real pain, disease or suffering. But they didn't have nice enough lives to be successful, driven characters either. But maybe that's where the real genius is- we all have a vision of how our lives 'should be' but sometimes we can be completely blind to how they actually are.

The second time I saw the movie I had time to follow the characters through their journeys, instead of watching wide eyed trying to follow every twist and turn. I actually enjoyed it more the second time- and was able to laugh at the comedic bits and enjoy it. The idea of a cut throat real estate agent Sally St. Clair
(Vinessa Shaw) giving weed samples to her clients along with their listing sheets actually seems pretty plausible. That she would employ a Nebraskan transplant (played by Alex Cendese) to maintain her precious plants in exchange for a job, a place to live and a car to drive makes perfect sense. The comedy comes when her employee gives huge 'samples' to every house guest who stops by, almost without blinking. (In the real world, he would be selling some on the side to fund his personal bank account- and that is where the reality blurs.)
There were two other delightful bright spots in this movie
- Erik Scott Smith (pictured above as Sammy, the vaguely homeless musician who rewrites lyrics and churns out hits almost without trying) and Ross Patterson (below).

Patterson plays Joey Zane- a scheming 'agent' who delivers every funny line in the movie, and brightens up an otherwise darker experience. Whenever he opened his mouth the entire audience listened and laughed- a few even applauded. His lines seemed more unscripted than the rest of the movie and if they were his own, he will definitely be seen again because it was hilarious and well done. I think if the film had focused a bit more on the Sammy/Joey story and developed it a little more, it actually would stand a pretty great chance of instant success.

Willa Holland seems to be on the verge of breaking out huge- she is an Avril Lavigne lookalike who floats in and out of the story running away from something but seeming a bit too young to be facing the issues she does. Her mom has gone away again and her step-dad leers at her after she showers so she runs away and crashes at her lesbian cousin's house after posing nude for a photographer who runs smarmy websites. Eventually she stumbles past the coffee shop where everyone seems to meet and gets hired by Sally St. Clair (the real estate agent). I will say this though- every time she is on the screen you watch her. She previously worked on 'The O.C.' and I am certain this is just the beginning of a great career for her.

You can watch the trailer here:

Or go to http://www.gardenpartymovie.com/ for more information.