One of the problems that can plague a solid independent feature is that its ideas may be good enough to stand on their own; however, considering the low-budget no-budget nature of indy filming, the vehicle ends up getting hamstrung with a cast of players who don’t have the acting chops to make it all come alive the way it needed. Such is the case with AMELIA’S 25th, where every one out of three cast members probably was the best producers could get … or else they didn’t do enough takes to give the director and/or editor enough to work with. There’s a nice spark to their interplay at times, but it isn’t consistent enough to keep the engine running. What saves the picture are the handful of veterans who have a few tricks up their sleeve when it comes to providing some nuance.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Finally reaching her 25th birthday, Amelia (played with suitable but not respectable aplomb by Electra Avellan) thinks she’s come face-to-face with death. She lives in Hollywood, and she’s been warned by her agent that “25 is the new dead.” Indeed, her career seems dead, as she bebops from one dreary audition to the next. Her love life seems dead, as her boyfriend can’t quite seem to stick his landing in the industry. And her prospects seem dead, as she can’t help but looking for what’s coming next in life instead of celebrating what she has. What’s a girl to do?
Well, if you believe Nicholas Cole and Mark Whittington’s script, she’d just settle in to making one bad decision after another and blame life for not giving her a respectable chance. What’s missing here is that, like the rest of us, li’l Amelia has something called free will: she doesn’t have to lead the life she’s leading, and, with the help of a magical angel (Whittington), she at least is encouraged to learn how to appreciate the moment as opposed to looking for something better. Of course, the conceit here is that she may never find something better as she’s encouraged to stop looking for it (in one interpretation of the film’s central message), and that’s a sentiment I just can’t agree with, nor should she.
But this is an ensemble piece primarily – not a heavy-message film – and, on that level, AMELIA’S 25TH certainly doesn’t reach any new heights in our cultural exploration of art. It’s fluff, much like the aimless downpour of angelic feathers that punctuate the story’s final few moments. Life is magic, after all, and that’s probably all director Martin Yernazian and his faithful crew wanted to say about this. Think of it like a piece of candy – pop it into your mouth, wiggle it around, let it dissolve, and enjoy the taste while you have it (that’s just what Amelia is encouraged to do). From that perspective, the film works just fine, achieving as much balance between farce and whimsy as it probably can given the limitations of all involved (which is to say “don’t look for any acting nominations to come from this one”).
And there are some actors in here whom I admire. For example, Danny Trejo shows up as a scummy movie producer with a heart of gold (only could a true Hollywood scriptwriter actually write AND believe such a thing exists), but he’s shackled with co-stars and creative situations that just don’t amount to much except a final last moment when he kinda/sorta rediscovers true love (again, only a true Hollywood scriptwriter …). And major kudos to the increasingly reliable Jennifer Tinny to wring yet more life out of her single scene than quite probably any other actress around could – she plays a nutty psychic with the perfect balance of mysticism and cynicism about it all so well that I almost thought I was watching a different picture.
AMELIA’S 25TH (2013) is produced by KMK Productions. DVD distribution is being handled through Breaking Glass Pictures. As for the technical specifications, the film looks and sounds mostly solid, though there are sequences that definitely could’ve been miked better to bring out more clarity of the spoken dialogue. As for the special features, there are a handful of deleted scenes (not needed for the finished product) and some basic biographies, but that’s all she wrote.
RECOMMENDED. AMELIA’S 25TH works best as drive-by entertainment: it certainly has nothing all that memorable to it (except maybe Jennifer Tilly’s wonderfully wacky turn as a fortune-telling psychic who wants to silence all of the voices around her), but it isn’t a complete waste of time, either. There’s a nice sense of whimsy at work here – albeit mostly forced by its burgeoning cast of under-talented prospects – that could’ve been elevated with a stronger cast and crew. The lukewarm script warms up just enough to be accepted but certainly not revered as anything special.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Breaking Glass Pictures provided me with a DVD copy of AMELIA’S 25TH by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.