Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews
- Category: Jacqueline Monahan
- Published on 19 April 2010
- Written by Jacqueline Monahan
Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
The contradictory title will make sense by the end of this one. A despondent man shows up on the Jersey shore to end it all, but is accidentally saved by a teenage girl. Greg Jerden (Mark Hefti) has lost his will to live due to a tragic accident he caused in the past, one that resulted in the loss of his wife and unborn daughter.
Flashbacks illustrate his torment through memory and recurring nightmares in which his wife Sarah (Elizabeth Brissenden) becomes so achingly real that he speaks aloud to her, only to awaken and be faced with her absence once more.
Julie Peterson (Scout Taylor Compton) is days away from being 17 and the life force within her is as strong as Greg’s is weak. Through several acts of kindness and some emotional pep talks, complete with examples, the teen gradually persuades Greg to accept life once more, with the eventual goal of him being able to embrace it the way she does.
Julie’s got an ironic secret though, one I bet the reader can guess without benefit of further hint. Other players in this quiet little drama include Julie’s widowed father Paul (Ken Arnold), his second wife Grace (Mika Nishida), the Chief of Police Berg (Warren Draper), store owner Curtis Schmidt (David Brown) whose son Bret (Luke Pennington) is smitten with Julie. She is not smitten with him, though and continues to keep company with the melancholy Greg, believing that she is his only lifeline.
There is no romantic involvement afoot, only the deep commitment of friends who are there for each other during times of despair. Police Chief Berg has a secret of his own and fights the urge to wallow in grief until he gets his hands on a bottle of hard liquor.
Grace wants a child, Paul does not. Most of the characters are suspicious of Greg throughout the length of the film – his looks (scruffy and unkempt), his motives (Julie is young and naïve) and his tragic, unsettling past, which is researched through newspaper clippings.
Wrapping up storylines during the final moments of a film is gratifying when done well. Tomorrow is Today does it well. Although there are some predictable outcomes, there are also some sweet, meaningful surprises. Look for the flash of green during the last second and watch Greg’s face as you see it.
Mark Hefti possesses the very face of sadness and despair. Scout Taylor-Compton turns in a natural, low-key performance as Julie that makes it easy to comprehend Greg’s transformation through his association with her. Supporting characters are surprisingly kind, even through the initial misunderstanding that Greg’s appearance evokes. Grace is not a wicked stepmother, and Mika Nishida gives her three-dimensional depth.
Ken Arnold as Julie’s worried father is not the unreasonable patriarch (for long). Warren Draper’s Chief Berg channels a remarkable insight into Greg’s behavior because of his own tragedy and is a refreshing change from the usual macho cop. David Brown’s Curtis is a guy with a big heart who also becomes the voice of reason in tense situations.
Director Frederic Lumiere (Fatima) does not give us any great highs or lows, preferring to let sweeping scenery, pensive music, and wisdom-laden words make the required impact; missing are fists, hysterics, or even loud arguments. The dialogue can be poetic at times and Lumiere is content to let it resonate with his viewers. Lead actor Mark Hefti also wrote the screenplay, so he gets the credit for the film’s opening line, “Life is a dance between monotony and miracles.” If that appeals to you, the rest of the film will as well.
As for the title, think: Choose Life. Think: Carpe Diem. Think: live in the moment, and you will have an excellent idea of the film’s mindset. If you can commit to 98 minutes without CGI, profanity, nudity or blood, you’ll appreciate this gentle film that is itself full of appreciation.
This multiple award-winning* 2009 release is available on DVD.
*Trimedia Festival (Best of Festival, Audience Award), Garden State Film Festival (Best Homegrown Feature) Method Fest Film Festival (Best Actress), Phuket International Film Festival (Best Actor, Audience Award), Rhode Island Film Festival (Directorial Discovery Award), California Independent Film Festival (Best Score), Purple Violet Film Festival (Best Professional Feature).