Wild Girl Waltz

Nobody puts baby in a corner.

Nobody puts baby in a corner.

(2012) Comedy (Levrock) Christina Shipp, Samantha Steinmetz, Jared Stern, Brad Hemesath, Scott Lewis, Kim Barlow, Kim Gordon, Alexander Cook, Julian Lowenthal, Sean McDonald. Directed by Mark Lewis   

 

Ah, the small rural town. Peace. Quiet. Boredom. Nothing on TV but crap. The bars aren’t open yet. Bored with the Internet. What to do?

Angie (Shipp) is already having a bad day. Minding her own business walking on the side of the road, she’s pelted with a milkshake by two young men in a pick-up truck who call her a whore and drive off, whooping and hollering. She’s angry and humiliated and sticky, so she calls her friend Tara (Steinmetz) who in addition to being her BFF is also her brother Brian’s (Stern) girlfriend. Tara is a little bit amused but agrees to go get her.

Brother Brian can’t do it; he’s too busy tracking down Ernie (S. Lewis) who owes him money. After a bit of a blow-up, Brian takes the $15 Ernie offers him and tells him $20 a week until he pays off the $300 that he expected today and was banking on. This puts Brian into a pissy mood.

After Angie gets cleaned up and changed, Tara offers her something that will make her day better. She has two pills that she got from a co-worker; she’s unsure as to what they do other than they’ll “kick your ass.” Forget Iron Man and Superman, Tara’s my superhero. Angie figures the day’s effed up already so with a “why not?” shrug she takes her pill while Tara takes one of her own.

The pills are starting to kick in just as Brian gets home. His day is definitely going to be stressful now as he realizes that it will be up to him to babysit the two righteously high ladies. Angie is having a psychedelic reaction, seeing color trails at the end of her fingers (flesh-colored; in this town, even the drugs are colorless) while Tara gets horny as all get-out and offers to initiate a threesome with Brian and his sister (eww). Before the day is out, they’ll hit a local bar, attempt to get revenge on the shake throwers with a pie and spend a day figuring out that the most exciting thing of all is the bond between people.

While this is ostensibly a comedy, it’s not like the sort that are all the rage these days, the kind that throw as many jokes at the audience and hope one or two stick, nor are they the sort that build up outrageous bits and use shock as a weapon  (while the movie doesn’t shy away from frank sexual discussion, there’s no real raunchiness here and no nudity – sorry fellas). This is a more quiet kind of humor, one which allows you to see something of your own life and situation in the one onscreen.

Lewis was obviously operating on the kind of budget that doesn’t pay for toilet paper on a big Hollywood film but he makes the best of what he has. The movie has an organic feeling; he chooses his locations wisely and you get a sense of the rhythms of life outside of the big cities. The dialogue is pretty realistic too – the people in Wild Girl Waltz talk like people actually talk in the Year of Our Lord 2013. Like most people, the characters in WGW think they are far funnier than they are and when they joke around, they aren’t making zingers that pro comics would level at you but the kind of jokes you’d hear from your friend Jillian at work or your neighbor Kevin down the road. Assuming you know people named Jillian and Kevin, of course.

Steinmetz is a real find here. She reminded me of a young Helen Hunt who captured all our hearts in the 90s sitcom Mad About You. So too does Steinmetz, although I suspect she’s a bit more wild than the character Hunt played on TV – I just don’t see Jamie Buchman taking strange pills from someone she barely knew. Tara does so almost without a second thought; perhaps the difference comes from living in a small western Massachusetts town opposed to living in New York City.

There’s something magical about summer, even when things are boring. Some of our best memories come out of boredom – just hanging out with our friends, drinking a cold beer on a hot day, sneaking glances at the girls in their shorts, their legs summer-brown and their smiles promising wild summer nights. Movies that capture that are the kind that tend to remain in memory much longer than other movies and I suspect that my rating for this movie will creep up over the years.

This isn’t the fastest-paced movie you’re going to see, and there are a few filler shots of countryside passing by a moving vehicle. Montages are useful as a device linking one scene with another but should be used sparingly. That’s just quibbling though; considering the budget, this is a pretty impressive achievement. I mean, there’s enough here to warrant a look if it should ever make it out to your town, or if it makes it out on home video. It would certainly have been a fine representation in my annual American Experience review mini-festival which discusses movies that capture the essence of American life – as this one does here.

REASONS TO GO: Captures the boredom of a small town summer day perfectly. Steinmetz is terrific.

REASONS TO STAY: Some of the “high” shenanigans are a bit forced.

FAMILY VALUES:  A bit of bad language and some drug use.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Lewis’ previous film was Bay State Blues.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 6/19/13: Rotten Tomatoes: no score yet. Metacritic: no score yet; outside of a few one-off screenings hasn’t received a limited or wide release yet.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Adventureland

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: Skateland

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