Year Released: 2014
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 111 minutes
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Owen Williams’ feature film, Under The Hollywood Sign, tells the story of Charlie (Owen Williams) and Kate (Sherry Romito), a couple of struggling actors in LA coming to terms with their place in life. As Kate finds herself fed up with the life of being a party clown, seeking a more serious commitment to settle down and start a family, Charlie still clings to the dreams that took him to LA, even if he’s barely able to afford rent, can’t book an acting gig and is predominantly working as a waiter. As Charlie and Kate head in separate directions, Charlie begins to question his life when personal tragedy strikes and the dominoes begin to fall, leaving him living in a van with his ex-roommate’s party-hard Uncle Phil (Clayton Rohner).
The story of a person moving to LA to make it big as an actor, only to find employment as a waiter instead, has become commonplace and cliché. The whole “chasing your dreams vs. practical responsibility” is a universal conflict, yes, but it’s starting to feel overdone in this seemingly blossoming subgenre of films about struggling actors, or filmmakers, trying to make sense of their lives amid adversity. You really need to deliver something a little bit more interesting than simply earnest sentimentality or quirky characters to stand out nowadays, and this film does not stand out.
For one, the film seems to spin its wheels too much early on. Establishing the struggles of actors in LA, and the consequences that can have on one’s relationships, doesn’t require that much setup. The first real interesting push forward for Charlie’s growth doesn’t happen until we’re halfway into the film, and by that point you’re already checking out of the story. Honestly, I wish we’d started closer to the halfway point, because the film turns into a different type of tale, as Charlie faces true adversity and challenges to his world view that allow for real character growth to occur. If we want to look at it in a simplistic act structure sense, the second act takes way too long to arrive.
I guess my main struggle with the film is that it doesn’t feel like a cohesive narrative tale that works organically for all the characters involved, but instead feels like a collection of plot points and ideas that we’ve seen time and time again, but handled elsewhere in a better way. Sure, this film has its spin on things, but it doesn’t really differentiate itself that much. It’s wholly forgettable.
All that said, it’s not like the actors involved don’t do a good job. Everyone delivers a solid, or better, performance, it’s just that they’re doing a great job in an overall narrative framework that doesn’t match their effort. Frankly, I’d have preferred if the film was even more about Kate’s journey, as she seems to have the most layered response to her station in life without the need for the push of a quirky character or forced traumatic event. Really, if the film focused in on her, and made her tale the center, truly allowing the drama to play out in a more intimate and immediate fashion, we’d probably be talking about a great character study instead of a collection of clichés.
This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.
Posted on June 22, 2014 in Reviews by Mark Bell
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