Tuesday, June 15, 2010

UPTOWN: The Film Babble Blog Review

The summer keeps sucking along, but there are a few indie gems out there worth seeking out. Like this one: UPTOWN (Dir. Brian Ackley, 2009) A young couple (Chris Riquinha and Meissa Hampton) sits in a New York restaurant nervously asking each other questions. They are obviously on their first date. 

As they shuffle through the usual "getting to know you" small talk, we learn that Riquinha is an aspiring film maker and thinks Hampton could be a good actress in a new project he's working on. He describes the premise: "It's about this guy who hasn't had a lot of luck with relationships. He's had some relationships and they never work out, he never seems to say the right things, do the right things, and he's just very awkward and that kind of thing. 

So you get a little bit of that first and then he meets this girl...and that would be you...it follows the 2 of them, you know their relationship, of course it doesn't work out 'cause that's what the movie is - it doesn't work out." Is that this movie? Sure looks like it. After dinner Hampton reveals that she is married. Riquinha is a little taken aback, but they continue their date - walking and talking though the noisy streets of the city. 

It's fairly certain that at the end of their evening our male lead is smitten. Can't quite put a finger on the female lead yet though. She calls him to meet again. She tells him that her husband read the emails between them and got upset. She says they're going to try and work on their marriage. They part. Then she calls Riquinha wanting to meet again.

Not much else happens in this extremely low budget film which was shot on digital video in 9 days. It ambles with these characters so realistically that it often feels like we're voyeurs secretly peeping in on real people. Riquinha and Hampton have an uneasy yet powerfully palpable chemistry together; both should have a great acting futures. 

In the hands of lesser talents such mundane yet tension fueled dialogue would come off stiff and un-involving, but they give it a touching authenticity. UPTOWN is grainy, shaky, and often the dialogue is obscured by street noise - many of the minuses that make up the "mumblecore" movement - but it has a quietly pleasing quality regardless. 

It's the rare film where people actually seem like they are thinking of what they are going to say next instead of just blurting out scripted text. It's a treatise on awkward restrained passion and a very thoughtful work that shows a lot of promise for a first time director. UPTOWN has been making the festival circuit so look out for it if it comes to your area. It also releases on DVD on July 11th. 

More later...


wedding sparklers said...

film babble blog is a great idea

Anonymous said...

The actress is known as
Meissa Hampton

M-E-I-S-S-A. no L

great review. insightful and beautifully written.

Daniel Cook Johnson said...

Oops! Thanks for the correction - I fixed it. Really appreciate the comment.