- Category: Patty Fantasia
- Published on 28 January 2010
- Written by Patty Fantasia
By Patty Fantasia
By Patty Fantasia
Photos by Stephen Thorburn
The poignant, heartwarming film Reach For Me had its Las Vegas premiere on Friday night January 22nd at the Las Vegas Hilton complete with a Red Carpet photo shoot, celebrity meet and greet, Q&A session and after party. The film celebrates life against the backdrop of death in a hospice where the lead character Alvin (Seymour Cassel), a bitter and hostile old man who just wants to die in peace. Rather than grant this last request, the universe plays an ironic joke and sends him Kevin (Johnny Whitworth), a young roommate, who is madly in love with his girlfriend (Lacey Chabert) and fighting valiantly to hold on to every breath and memory that life has to offer.
Reach for Me has had other premieres prior to Las Vegas and has won several awards on the film festival circuit including Best of the Festival Award at Lake Arrowhead, an Ad Astra Award from Tallgrass for actor Seymour Cassel and San Diego’s Audience Choice Award for the film and Indie Icon Award for Cassel. It was also enthusiastically received at its’ screening in Palm Springs last month and now it has received another welcoming reception from the audience at the Giordano Theatre in the Hilton.
On the red carpet both Adrienne Barbeau and Lacey Chabert expressed their enthusiasm at being part of this project. For Barbeau, playing a breast cancer survivor who’s had a mastectomy, it required showing the frailties of someone trying to hold on to her womanhood, while her own body tries to defeat her. However, she enjoyed the challenge. A veteran of game shows, television series, music and the theatre, she said that perhaps her most challenging role to date was actually in an off-Broadway production she starred in from March thru May of 2006 called The Property Known as Garland, in which she starred as the legendary Judy Garland. With a smile she admitted that playing a character based on a real person can be more difficult, but in her case she was spared a lot of comparisons because the part was a fictional backstage account of the famous singer’s final concert appearance rather than being a representation of true events. It’s also interesting to note that one of Reach for Me’s sponsors has been the AARP, which screened the movie during their convention in Las Vegas a few months ago. Ironically, when Barbeau gave birth to twin boys at the age of 51 in March of 1997 she claimed that she was the only one on the maternity ward who was also a member of the organization.
Lacey Chabert, perhaps best known for her TV role on Party of Five, plays the adventurous Sarah, a life loving teacher watching helplessly as the man she loves slip away from her. For Chabert the emotional range was very rewarding to play. In fact, actress/producer Charlene Blaine, who plays Nell in the picture, often describes the project as a “labor of love” and that fits with the comments all of the actresses made on the red carpet. As for Blaine, the role of producer suits her as she seems genuinely enjoying the success of both the film and her company Amediavision, which currently has several other projects in various stages of development.
Following the star studded Red Carpet Arrivals, guests had the opportunity to explore the Giordano Theatre and the bar area off to the side where a meet and greet with cast members and screenwriter Mike Adams was held. He made the trip to Las Vegas from his home in Vancouver, Canada and Reach for Me is the first script he’s had produced, although he’s no stranger to the entertainment business, having worked on camera crews since the mid 90’s. The story is a personal one for him, since the idea for it came following the tragedy of his sister-in-law’s losing battle with cancer. She passed away leaving behind two young children and Mike’s family pain became the impetus for his writing. He pitched the idea to Charlene, who liked it and asked him to send her a script, which he wrote in three weeks. He explains that this was “a story burning in their gut they needed to tell people” and Charlene proudly adds that the finished product on the screen has very few changes from the screenplay she first received. Although Reach for Me might seem like an overnight success for him, Mike said this is approximately the tenth script he’s written, so he’s been developing his craft for quite some time.. He admits, however, that this project just seemed to have a life of its own and all of the components for getting the film produced quickly fell into place.
Just before the house lights went down and the movie started onlookers were treated to a fun surprise. A birthday cake was rolled out on stage to celebrate the birthdays of actor Seymour Cassell and distributor Angelo Giordano’s wife Christine and Lani Misalucha from Voices beautifully sang Happy Birthday before hurrying off to do her show.
After the screening there was a Q&A, bringing forth a number of responses from people who’d lost loved ones or friends to illness. In fact, volunteers from the American Cancer Society were in attendance during the event and the organization is an official sponsor. At this time it was clearly evident that the movie had touched a nerve with a number of viewers. One person looking up at the cast remarked that each of them was better than the other because all of them were so strong in their performances, a touching comment to many on stage. This wasn’t an easy shoot either, in terms of material or logistics. Seymour, who is in mostly every scene, said that commuting to the location took over two and a half hours a day, demonstrating how committed to doing this project he truly was. He claims that all he’s ever wanted to do is entertain and he’s been doing that from the days when he acted in independent films directed by the legendary John Cassavetes to now taking on the part of world weary Alvin. There’s a line in the film about life not living up to the idea of living. Maybe so, but Reach for Me, lives up to the challenge of bringing a story with heart to life, which is what independent film is all about.