Seriously, I watch a lot of independent films. For one thing, my still-evolving critical voice isn’t as well-traveled nor as well-read as others; as a consequence, distributors are far more willing to share with me some of these smaller releases. Some have suggested that makes me grumpy, but I tell them – with a wink – that, no, I’ve always been grumpy. To be honest, I actually enjoy watching these quieter films, mostly because since they get ignored by so many other outlets I stand a vastly greater chance of having my particular take on it read, debated, or responded to. That’s never a bad place to be in when you’re an aspiring writer – one practically in charge of an admittedly tiny audience – but I take its responsibilities seriously.
Occasionally, I’m surprised by the latest indie release, and CHLORINE did surprise me … in that it was so bad. More after this break …
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type 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 …)
The town of Copper Canyon is, basically, Anytown USA: it’s where the 99% eat, breathe, and collectively live our lives that we call ‘the American Dream.’ However, Roger (played by Vincent D’Onofrio) and Georgie (Kyra Sedgwick) have hit an impasse both in their home and careers: Georgie’s a fading beauty queen who’s struggling into mid-life-menopause, and Roger’s effectiveness as a banker and father have hit the worst slump imaginable. Come Hell or high water, Georgie will extend her time in the spotlight, even at the ruin of her family and finances.
Pay attention, kids: this is what happens when you learn what America is by watching too much television. CHLORINE is filled with what writers Jay Alaimo and Matthew Fiorello have, no doubt, shamelessly pilfered from either other films or sitcom reality, each one less viable to hold a candle up against the kid you pay to mow your lawn. They’re vacuous yet vain, pompous yet predictable, and they bear no relationship to reality. This is – my best guess – a contemporary spin on the classic screwball comedy of class warfare: the elite meet the effete, and it’s all meant to be swallowed with a grain of salt.
The chief problem there is that under Jay Alaimo’s direction none of it is really remotely funny. Sedgwick and D’Onofrio – our leading couple – are particular miscast, with Sedgwick dishing out lines probably excised from one of Diablo Cody’s unfilmed scripts while D’Onofrio looking like he’s about to go Travis Bickle any minute. But in Alaimo’s America, this is the average couple: they put on a public face that only fools themselves while everyone – including their lovably precocious teenage children – secretly laugh at them behind their backs. In Alaimo’s America, middle class is never anything to strive for; only those who can cut two immaculate lines of cocaine while driving a sports car serve as inspiration to the masses-at-large. In Alaimo’s America, the country club teenage skank will claim she’s pregnant with your son … especially if that nets her enough hush money to buy a limited edition jeweled bracelet. In Alaimo’s America, folks with morals, gusto, and high fiber need not apply.
CHLORINE (2013) is produced by Company Motion Pictures. DVD distribution is being handled by Gravitas Ventures. As for the technical specifications? Well … let me put it this way: I do watch an awful lot of independent, smaller releases – mostly because I love finding those hidden gems to recommend that other budding critics just wouldn’t spend much time with – and I’ve still seen home videos shot with better quality and more admirable mike-work … these craftsmens’ parents should be ashamed. Thankfully, there are no special features … a rare blessing, indeed!
(MILDLY) RECOMMENDED for fans of indie fare only. In all of cinema life, there’s nothing worse than a screwball comedy missing more than a few screws, and CHLORINE – despite a handful of effective, small moments – demonstrates just how wise that old, old adage is: kids, don’t try this at home. Writer/director Jay Alaimo should be stripped of his license to practice in the fine arts in exchange for bringing such an immeasurably talented cast to this production while failing to tell them it was a comedy. Emmy nominee Vincent D’Onofrio has never been so painfully miscast, and Golden Globe winner Kyra Sedgwick must’ve lost a bet.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Gravitas Ventures provided me with a DVD copy of CHLORINE by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape or form influenced my opinion of it.