Many subjects justify taking out loans from family members to realize a dream. This film, about a wallflower that finds himself through Salsa dancing, warrants a short—not a feature film. We wander around the life of Jamie, a boy all grown-up in New York City, who’s still dealing with his teenage angst in his 30s. If the filmmaker hopes to reignite the distribution dark horse that was Strictly Ballroom (the indie flick is shamelessly plugged aplenty in the film) they better hope the bulk of viewers are blind to the done-into-the-ground plot about the geek that can’t get a break. Chances are, folks who act their age will have a hard time connecting to the half-empty plot and its prolonged, aimless ways. Box office on this one seems dim.
Jamie (David Rhein) is a whiz at crunching numbers and impressing his superiors. Hot off a promotion at work he goes out after hours with not much of a clue. Beset with a condition that makes his eyes dart back and forth, he’s often accused of taking drugs. Like any other night, Jamie has a beer at the crowded bar and doesn’t engage with a soul. Nobody in town is lonelier. Seems his coworkers take pity on him and one spunky female coworker invites him to office karaoke night. And what a disastrous performance! Few could channel Kafka on the open mike like this guy.
Jamie soon falters at work. He’s a lost soul and the rainy city leaves no dry cobblestone to cry on. Fortunately, his wise sister Lianne is craving reconciliation. Booted from his apartment, he couch-surfs at his sister’s pad and they start heart-to-hearts. She’s on a kick of living out her days as if they might be her last but hopes her depressed brother takes cues. Lo and behold, the film Strictly Ballroom sits on the TV set. See, Jamie used to dance as a toddler. Salsa was his favorite. Lianne thinks he is meant revisit his passion.
Before long he’s taking Salsa classes. A few stomped toes later, Jamie becomes a capable dancer. So, dedicated to his newfound self, he makes a deal with gutsy Lianne to be his partner and together the dancing duo crash a party with their moves and wow the crowd.
It takes 90 minutes for the main character to go from terminal geek to totally chic. Trouble is the tune’s been overplayed: nothing much new here. And frankly, if you’re gonna shoot a film in the city, the location scout could find better haunts than ones where the Staples marquis is beaming in the background. At times the sound is off, and other technical difficulties mount here and there—Jamie looks like he’s reading lines and sister, Lianne, probably writes her character up as more of a palm reader who spouts winded street-olgy to her naive kin. But the audience doesn’t need to be told that there’s a greater force up in the sky and that New Yorkers live in the moment.
Sure, the character is up, then falls, then soars up again, this time with fresh insight. And dance steps willing, he will find romance and a new career in a leotard. Maybe if Jamie wasn’t such a slow learner and his sister chatted less, the film could have gotten to its destination much faster. But this tour opted for stop-and-go traffic rather than a clean and smooth straightaway.
Cast: David Rhein, Marlene Rhein and Robert Costanzo
Director/Screenwriter: Marlene Rhein
Producer: Christine Giorgio
Genre: Drama; Spanish and English-language, subtitled
Running time: 90 min
Release date: May 15 NY