One of the problems inherent in making movies specifically about the process of making a movie is that sometimes the characters and situations can be so nuanced with real-world mechanics elements lose effectiveness when viewed by someone who isn’t or hasn’t been a part of the movie industry. When it’s handled right – when it’s handled broadly enough – then the writer and the director and the actors can escape that misstep and, instead, have better luck at delivering something that’ll be embraced by both insiders and outsiders as a legitimate story worth telling. When it isn’t handled right, then filmmakers run the risk of limiting the size of their audience. And what if it’s done half-way? Then you end up with a film like SUPPORTING CHARACTERS, a “nice” character comedy that probably won’t have much re-watch value but is smart and pleasant enough for a single experience.
(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 this ain’t for you! Instead, 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 …)
Best buds Nick (played with way too much reserve by Alex Karpovsky) and Darryl (Tarik Lowe) work in New York as an editing team – they’re typically hired to save poorly shot films into a sellable product. Adrian (Kevin Corrigan) is a director who, apparently, disappeared in the process of shooting his last film – a romantic comedy involving Jamie (Arielle Kebbel) as a dog-walker who falls in and out of love – so they’re tasked with making the picture into a finished motion picture. Together, Nick and Darryl go about their professional and personal lives, all with the same focus: salvage what they can, and get on to the next project.
At face value, SUPPORTING CHARACTERS presents a scenario with some pretty endless possibilities. It’s a film about the filmmaking process, and it uses this metaphor – flicks in transition – to present the lives of an assortment of young men and women. It mirrors their sentiments effectively – how everyone wants to have a perfect relationship – in the day-in, day-out struggles seemingly everyone involved in the motion picture business endures. The chief problem with this is that, unfortunately, not everyone involved in the motion picture business lives their personal life the way they do their professional life – as anyone in any industry could argue – so the supposition only works so long as the material sticks to it and, further, makes it believable.
That said, it’s kinda/sorta hard to buy into a motion picture starlet, such as the one played by Kebbel, actually experiencing her existence with its various ups and downs the way the rest of America does. After all, the story – written by lead Lowe by director Daniel Schechter – even includes a scene wherein Jamie’s life is exposed for what it is by the paparazzi; last I looked, the rest of America doesn’t live that way – in constant fear of having their best and worst moments captured by photographers and put out in glossy magazines – so the characters purported ‘wholesomeness’ kinda/sorta feels illegitimate and forced OR, one might say, the invention of a movie script.
Still, there are plenty of elements within SUPPORTING CHARACTERS that work just fine. Nick and Darryl are properly put up as the central relationship for the picture, which is smart, as both leads do a capable job walking through these moments one leading to the next. For my tastes, I thought Karpovsky underplayed his role (and, thus, his importance) quite a bit, and I would’ve liked to have seen Lowe’s performance actually match the manic-intensity suggested by the script, but that’s mostly an artistic quibble. I think if these two performances were stepped up a bit, then the film would’ve stood a greater chance at endearing folks outside the entertainment business to appreciate it a bit more than what they did. As it stands, much of the film feels like a bit of an inside joke; we’re only seeing it as it was captured by cameras, so perhaps it wasn’t meant to mean as much to us. This is also only Schechter’s second time in the director’s chair, so maybe his lack of experience had something to do with it.
SUPPORTING CHARACTERS is produced by Let It Play, Reinart Films, and Pipeline Entertainment (II). DVD distribution is being handled by New Video under its Tribeca Film umbrella. As for the technical specifications, the picture looks and sounds consistently solid, but there was a single sequence (character laying down in bed) that sounded as if the mike was covered up (???); sure, it’s a minor quip, but it’s a quip nonetheless. As for the special features, there’s only a brief 3-minute “interview” featuring Karpovsky, Schechter, and Lowe that feels more like a bloated coming attraction than it does a product of substance. I would’ve liked more – especially with a film so character focused – but, alas, it is what it is.
RECOMMENDED. I enjoyed SUPPORTING CHARACTERS well enough; the drawback is that I think it was the kind of smart story and winning situation that I wanted to enjoy more. Many performers seemed to show up with their B-game (as opposed to their A), but it was still a pleasant enough experience to enjoy in a single sitting.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at New Video provided me with an advance DVD copy of SUPPORTING CHARACTERS by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.