Thursday, December 5, 2013

2013 Cinema By the Bay

Cinema By the Bay was the sixth and final film series in the San Francisco Film Society's 2013 Fall Season.  It was held from November 22 to 24 at the Roxie.  I saw one film in the series.

The SFFS had a sale on Fall Season Cinevouchers.  A Cinevoucher is a 10 film pass which is cheaper than buying 10 SFFS Member priced tickets.  The discounted Cinevouchers were only good for the Fall Season.  I bought three Cinevouchers (30 films) to cover the Fall Season.  At first, I thought I bought too much but by the time Cinema By the Bay rolled around, I only had one film left on the Cinevouchers.  I would have seen more during the series but between having to pay out of pocket and cumulative film fatigue from a particularly busy autumn, I decided to stick with one film at Cinema By the Bay.  All told, I saw 32 films on 31 purchased admissions during the SFFS Fall Season series.

Dear Sidewalk starring Joseph Mazzello & Michelle Forbes; directed by Jake Oelman; (2013) - Official Website

Dear Sidewalk didn't look like it was filmed in the Bay Area.  After the screening, I looked it up and it was filmed in Austin.  I'm not sure what the Bay Area connection was.

Throughout the film, I knew that I had seen the lead actress somehwere but could not place her.  As I read the closing credits, I saw that it was Michelle Forbes who played Ensign Ro Lauren in Star Trek The Next Generation.  That harkens back to my pseudo-fanboy days in college.  Some of us had access to the engineering building during off hours.  The student lounge was the de facto study hall at night & on the weekends.  On Sunday afternoons, we would take a study break and go into the main lecture hall which had a ceiling mounted projector which was hooked into cable TV.  We would watch ST TNG and I don't mind saying that Ensign Ro Lauren was one of the more popular female characters amongst my engineering cohorts.

Dear Sidewalk is about Gardner (Joseph Mazzello), a 24 year old postman.  He has a very structured much so that his co-workers wager whether or not he'll be a minute late to work.  His job suits his desire for structure; everyday he walks the same route while delivering mail.  As his 25th birthday approaches, he begins to take stock of his life and gets a quarter-life crisis.

One of the new customers on Gardner's route is Paige (Michelle Forbes), a free spirited divorcee with a shock of dyed red hair.  She has an immediate effect on Gardner.   She encourages him to break out of his routine which results in him not delivering the mail and eventually being fired (aren't mail carriers in a union?).  Anyway, Paige isn't a savior.  She has problems which dwarf Gardner's.  She doesn't have a job, she's doesn't have a boyfriend (despite her brother's efforts to set her up on blind dates) and she's a failed artist. 

Despite their 20 year age difference Paige & Gardner embark on a relationship.  The inexperienced Gardner thinks they are headed for marriage whereas Paige seemed more interested in a one-time sexual encounter.  Issues come to a head at Gardner's 25th birthday party and I'm glad to say they part ways and both are better for the experience. 

Dear Sidewalk is a quirky comedy with modern day fairy tale elements.  Gardner lives on a boat parked in his friend's driveway.  His world is extremely insular.  It reminded me of a film called Old Stock which I saw at this year's Cinequest.  Paige is essentially an agent of change for Gardner but they are both transformed by their shared experiences.  It's a familiar plot and any film that uses it rises and falls based on the variations to the plot and the performances of the actors. 

In the case of Dear Sidewalk, both Mazzello & Forbes turn in satisfactory performances but like the film, there isn't much to praise.  The film is like vanilla ice cream.  It's hard to mess up vanilla ice cream and it's hard to make one scoop stand out from another.  Most vanilla ice cream fits in the bell curve; satisfactory but not very memorable.  The same can be said of Dear Sidewalk

I will say that Forbes still retains a palpable screen presence and innate sexuality more 20 years after having first seen her on ST TNG

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