Monday, 17 November 2014

Jerry, We Hardly Knew Thee...Or Your Friends

The Film::
Jerry (2014)

The under-the-radar factor
First production by the fledgling DreamStreet Movies production company is a micro-budget comedy/drama/romance effort peddled via streaming and downloading options available at their website.

The review:

If there was ever a group of individuals who seemed to have a destiny to be fulfilled by one day making indie feature films, it's the gang at DreamStreet. The Rock clan - that would be Alexander, Melody, and Daniel - teamed up with Brandon Ballard, Max Fox, and Josh Tichauer to form a company with that goal in mind. Backed up by the accomplishments of its various members in short narrative, documentary, instructional, and corporate projects, as well as film studies and acting classes, DreamStreet members also honed the versatility to wear many hats in the production of their first feature. Melody Rock, Max Fox, and Alexander Rock are credited as co-directors, each helming sequences while the other two would assume various other production duties as needed.

Jerry (Daniel Rock) makes the long drive into suburban Vegas to house-sit for a friend and take a summer break from his law studies, for which he has another year to go. A job as a night clerk at a legal firm opens up, where he gets to spend evenings with the ultimate misanthropic curmudgeon Richmond (Alex Rock), a character the out-of-towner doesn't mind badgering. Otherwise, things are mundane in Jerry's waking hours until he finds an eleven year old kid lying outside of the house that's being looked after. This loner loser Steven (Steven Mihranian) insists that he's fallen and injured his leg - weaseling his way into the house, he then begins to intrude into other aspects of Jerry's life. The kid's insistence that a game of catch in the park is just what the exhausted law student wants leads to what seems to be a chance encounter with a young woman walking her leashed cat (seriously). While it's obvious that Jerry finds Rachel (Katie Frey) attractive, it's up to Steven to break the ice, pushing the two potential lovebirds together and insisting his new "friend" obtain the female's number...which the kid eventually ends up dialing on behalf of his older colleague.

In spite of himself, Jerry does arrange to meet up with Rachel, starting with simple frolics in the park involving the learning of bicycle turn signals and then leading to the hiking up of mountainsides that she does far more effortlessly than her less than enthusiastic date. Slowly, romance does bloom; perhaps not as aggressively - or physically - as Steven wonders it could. But before a next possible step in the Jerry-Rachel universe can transpire, he's hit with the realization that summer is ending and the scheduled return to his law classes are imminent. Rachel is left to ponder her own options as Steven and even curmudgeonly Richmond implore Jerry to take some decisive steps.

Overall, this film should be regarded as an achievement by the people who put it together. Still, there's a fine line to straddle between being delightfully simple and disappointingly slight. Jerry has some trouble staying on the desired side of that divide. On the one hand, the production shows the right indie attitude of saying any attention deficit issues Hollywood seems to feel have affected movie going audiences should be ignored - the film takes its own sweet and mostly enjoyable time to deliver the tale of this fledgling romance. At the same instance, the richness of Ballard's standout cinematography on the screen isn't matched by depth of characterizations in the script. While one can accept Steven's presence as more or less representing the voices in Jerry's head telling him what he should be saying to himself, the mysterious kid's unusual command over the adults around him stretches suspension of disbelief to the limits. Rachel is also a pretty blank canvas - while played with charm and appeal by Frey (who's a daytime social worker making her screen debut - bravo!), her character seems to exist in too obvious a void when it comes to background and desires. She simply seems to be there for the story's sake, as opposed to be being a fully fleshed out presence. It also doesn't help that the low budget production's lack of extras and crowd scenes makes the results a little less cinematic in feel and more like a series of scenes from a stage play. At times, Jerry seems like a predictable series of puzzle pieces waiting to be too conveniently snapped into place.

Arguably the major irritant of the film revolves around the nature of the title character. Daniel Rock puts in a worthy effort with the material provided but Jerry seems too much of a wuss around Steven and as uncaring of Rachel's feelings as the kid accuses him of being. In spite of not living the most exciting of lives, the story's lead still has things pretty good and comes across as being a little too much of a "poor-little-spoiled-guy" to make one root for him...or even think that he really deserves the possibilities that have been offered.

Yes, these are weaknesses in the parts that make up Jerry but the actual sum still comes across as being pretty good. The cast of first-time feature performers are highly likeable regardless of any script shortcomings and definitely show some nice chemistry when interacting. The practice of sappy Hollywood efforts to lay a sugar-coated musical score to nudge viewer sentiments has been mercifully ignored here. The rest of the production values match the impressive Cannon 7D camera work and the film greatly reeks (in a good way) of the dedication that the DreamStreet team has put into the endeavor. Unlike some other filmmakers who look like they would be spinning their wheels with a follow-up production, one senses the group assembled here has learned much and has plenty more to offer in the future. No career changes are to be suggested...only encouragement. A comedy and a sci-fi flick are said to be in the DS pipeline - based on the potential seen in this effort, these are films to look forward to.

It may be true that Jerry is a film that's just good enough to make one wish it was a little better but it's still a strong first effort from this troop and is far from a waste of time to regard.

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