Year Released: 2004
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 105 minutes
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There’s a scene in “Good Will Hunting” that always irked me just a little bit.
Robin Williams and Matt Damon are sitting and talking. Or rather, Robin is talking, and Matt is listening, as Robin explains to Matt that while Matt might have learned a lot of book-knowledge, he knows nothing of life-knowledge, because he’s far too young to really have experienced anything.
And we, the audience, are supposed to mull over how much smarter Robin is than Matt.
Except for one small detail – Matt wrote the movie.
I’ll come back to this in a second.
In “Ocean Front Property,” Joe Scott, writer and director and actor, plays a character by the name of Rick. A year ago his fiancée, Valerie, dumped him a month before they were supposed to get married. On the day they were supposed to tie the knot, she instead married another guy, by the name of Pierre.
Rick’s not-quite in-laws have offered him and a couple of his friends the use of their beach house, which Rick accepts. And then, as he puts it – “You know, there are times in a man’s life when he should just stay drunk.”
With their bags barely unpacked, Rick and company suddenly discover they have unexpected guests, in the form of Valerie and Pierre. There’s been a scheduling mix-up, and they are now all in the same house all at the same time.
In addition to all this, there’s a sixth character in play. A girl by the name of Lucy, who is either 15 or 18 years old. She has a massive crush on Rick, and it’s here that the Robin/Matt issue rears its head. Sharing a moment on the beach, Lucy shares the wisdom of her years, which causes Rick to look down and remark – “Wow. Beauty and brains.”
And I guess if you’re really in the moment, you buy the sage advice being offered. But mostly I’m watching the writer talking to himself.
There’s another scene between Rick and Lucy at the end of the film that suffers from the same problem. Wisdom is supposedly getting imparted, when in reality both people on the screen are pulling from the same fount of wisdom, and it simply doesn’t work.
It’s unfortunate, because so much of this film does work, and wonderfully.
Joe Scott is both hilarious and fearless. In “Ocean Front Property” he has created a bitter, small character in the form of Rick. Through his writing and acting he manages to turn Rick from a character you wouldn’t want to be trapped in an elevator with, into a character who you understand and would want to buy a drink. As a writer, he knows how to set up a joke, and as an actor, he knows when to hand the punchline over to someone else.
And while the Rick and Lucy scenes tend to fall flat, there are several others that more than make up for it.
A couple of examples.
In the first scene, Rick’s friends, Stan and Jordan, have spent most of the movie not talking about whether or not to have children. At the end of the film, Stan walks into their bedroom and gives a speech that is touching, hilarious, and references ‘N Sync to, no joke, heartfelt effect. To relay the exact conversation would be to give away an important part of the plot – but the writing and acting are so perfectly complementary that it becomes the kind of scene that makes an entire film worth watching.
In another, Pierre and Rick have started to form a friendship of sorts. Walking the beach, Pierre doles out advice about attracting women to Rick. It’s amusing, certainly, and the laughs roll out one after the other until Rick points out something to Pierre about Valerie. She is not her own person, but rather, molds herself to the man she’s currently with. And from there, the scene goes from funny to devastating, ending with a line that’s both: “It used to be a Reuben.”
At the head of the movie, where “A Film By” generally goes, Joe has instead inserted “A Slice of Life by,” and he’s right. There are things here that will cut close to the bone of anyone who has ever gone through the process of grieving for a now-dead relationship. And while his philosophical musings don’t always hit the high water mark of his humor, well, there’s always the next film.
Here’s hoping Joe’s film career doesn’t go the way of Rick and Valerie’s relationship.
Posted on March 1, 2005 in Reviews by Joshua Grover-David Patterson
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