Directed by: Tao Ruspoli
Starring: Shawn Andrews, Olivia Wilde, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Tao Ruspoli, Dedee Pfeiffer
This year’s Twin Rivers Media Festival’s award-winning feature film, Tao Ruspoli’s Fix, is probably only about two-thirds as clever and hip as it thinks it is, and it definitely suffers from an ending that you’ll probably see coming from a mile away. But at the same time, Fix is an engaging work of no small charm—and one of the few exercises in first-person narrative filmmaking I’ve seen that really works. Plus, this second is interestingly achieved.
In the first place, it helps enormously that Ruspoli avoids the current trend in handheld clichés by manning the camera as if he actually knows something about filmmaking and is trying to make the film look as good as he can. In light of the modern mania for handing the camera to someone who shoots every scene like a chimp with palsy in the name of “realism,” Ruspoli’s approach is decidedly refreshing. Also in its favor on this score is the film’s use of an array of cinematic techniques—including classic Godard-style jump cuts—to keep things from bogging down into that dismal pseudo-stream-of-conscious approach that’s supposed to mimic real time. The story covers a stretch of about 16 hours, which are reasonably sized down to 89 minutes of movie.
The fact-based tale feels more like a fact-based anecdote, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it probably works in the film’s favor, since much of its success lies in the darkly quirky humor of a situation that’s really almost nightmarish. Everything revolves around filmmaker Milo (Ruspoli) and his partner, Bella (Olivia Wilde), trying to get his drug-addict brother, Leo (Shawn Andrews), into rehab before 8 p.m. If they can’t, Leo goes to jail. It sounds simple, but there’s a catch: Rehab costs $5,000 that none of them have. The upshot is a mini-road-trip movie around nearly every area of Los Angeles as they try to come up with the money—finally deciding that the only route is to buy a pound of marijuana and make a quick profit on it. That, too, is easier than it sounds. The movie doesn’t entirely work—some of the scenes drag—but there’s a nice feel to it all and several good characterizations that make it more than worth a look.
Twin Rivers Media Festival presents Fix at 8 p.m. Friday, May 2, at Courtyard Gallery, 9 Walnut St. in downtown Asheville. Other festival events and films take place over the weekend. Info: 273-3331.