L.A. Twister
L.A. Twister

USA, 2004. Rated R. 92 minutes.

Cast: Zack Ward, Tony Daly, Jennifer Aspen, Susan Blakely, Sarah Thompson, Manouschka Guerrier, Wendy Worthington, Amy Hathaway
Writer: Geoffrey Saville-Read
Cinematography: Patrice Lucien Cochet
Producers: Stephen A. Marinaccio II, Sven Pape, Anthony Stoppiello
Director: Sven Pape


Grade: D- Review by Erika Hernandez

Postmodern Disclaimer: This is an independent film about two inexperienced filmmakers, who make an independent film about two inexperienced filmmakers, who make an independent film.

L .A. Twister 's director, Sven Pape, has some credentials. He received his MFA in producing from The American Film Institute, studied filmmaking in Berlin, and interned with commercial directors in South Africa. Most recently, he worked as lead editor of Ghost of the Abyss (James Cameron's umpteenth plunge into Titanic 's watery grave to salvage some coin, this time on IMAX). If there is anything L.A. Twister teaches you, it's that credentials do not necessarily indicate chops.

Described by Pape as a “feel-good indie, ” L.A. Twister comments on the filmmaking process, Los Angeles culture, and the entertainment industry. We have seen variations on Hollywood commentary before in works like Sunset Boulevard, The Player, L.A. Story, Adaptation, and The Big Picture. The difference between these films and L.A. Twister is that they actually have something to say. Pape's film is more of a ham-fisted tour through its own postmodern mechanics. It has no heart, no resonance, and no real message, except this: If you want to make a feel-good indie, use a postmodern script to seem clever and invent the meaningless term, “feel-good indie.”

In L.A. Twister, Lenny (Zack Ward—who played the bully Scott Farcus in A Christmas Story) is one of the millions of actors who come to Hollywood seeking fame and fortune. Lenny makes ends meet by driving a limo, but dreams of the elusive big break. Lenny isn't about craft. He does not want to waste his time taking acting classes. He sleeps with an obese casting agent (Wendy Worthington) to get a lead role in a cop show, only to discover on set that he has been duped.

Ward and Daly hang out
Two guys who know nothing about filmmaking make a film about two guys who know nothing about filmmaking, who make a film.

Lenny's best friend Ethan (Tony Daly) flies into town to recover from the collapse of his marriage to Lynn (Amy Hathaway). They wallow for a bit in their broken states, until Ethan proposes that he and Lenny make a film together—about two guys who know nothing about filmmaking, who make a film together. Of course, the film will star both Ethan and Lenny.

Once the duo hooks up with a shady East Coast financier who “knows people who know people who know people, ” casting begins. Lenny quickly falls for Mindy (Jennifer Aspen), who does a monologue from Romeo and Juliet and snags the part as the film's female lead. Mindy, a classically trained actor, holds Lenny at arm's length. She is offended by his arrogance, but enamored with his natural charisma. As Mindy puts it as the two share a Jamba Juice, “I can't decide if you are really smart, or really stupid.” Lenny starts to win Mindy over, but discovers that eek!—she is married.

Meanwhile, Ethan spends his time storyboarding their film and moping over his ex-wife. He also runs into unsavory agents, trophy wives, masseurs, and other Hollywood archetypes when he goes out for coffee and plays pool. For someone in the pit of despair, Ethan sure gets around.

The twist in L.A. Twister is that most the above events are actually shots in Ethan and Lenny's movie. Every now and then, Pape cuts to a fictitious crew in the foreground of the image and a marker which reads, “ L.A. Twister.” This po-mo technique is not as confusing as it sounds. However, it kills your suspension of disbelief, leaving you detached. Once the double-take novelty wears off you don't care about the characters. L.A. Twister 's most dymanic and well-acted scenes, through Pape's vision, are rendered meaningless. This might have worked if Pape wanted you to cerebrally debate the notion of what is Real in Hollywood. But as a “feel-good indie” (whatever that is), L.A. Twister fails.

That Pape would use the term “feel - good indie” to describe something that deals with satire reveals much about his character as a director. Good directors care about things like artistic value and substance. Pape, like Lenny, is more a generator of buzzwords, trick devices, and marketing plans. More interesting is L.A. Twister's grassroots promotional campaign, L.A. Twister: The Movie, The Play, The Webcast—an extravaganza detailed on the film's official website. It includes a play written as L.A. Twister's prequel, a gift shop, and a live webcast (by way of some camera equipment loaned to Pape by James Cameron).

If only there was a decent film at the core of all this postmodern, interactive hoopla. L.A. Twister is a simple case of flash before substance. Someone tell P.T. Barnum to step away from the director's chair.

Review © August 2004 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 2004 Indican Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

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