Sunday, July 10, 2011

Review: Frog Dreams (2011) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Daniel Jordano
Written by: Daniel Jordano
Genre: Drama
MPAA: Not Rated
Released: 2011
Starring: Daniel Jordano, John Squire, Toni Vitale, Kara M. Tyler, Keith Jamal Downing, Lauren Steffany.

Plot: The personal lives of two complete strangers become entwined with each other after a car ride one afternoon, and through it all they rely on each other as they confront their own inner problems.

Review: 7/10

The Story is about: Jim is a coke addicted, fund manager who just lost his job and millions in the recession. Mickey is the man-with-a-van mover Jim hires to help him transport his file boxes to storage in Pennsylvania. The two become unlikely friends and help each other gain a new perspective in their struggle to recover their lives and their manhood.
My Thoughts: There‘s an old saying "When life gives you lemons make lemonade”, well what happens when lemonade doesn’t quite serve up lemons in it? Nothing in life is as picture perfect as it’s perceived in the movies or TV shows, majority of folks will be lucky to just settle for average in the rat race of life, because in reality life doesn’t give you lemons, it gives you shit, and a lot of it to be frank. And more then usual it’s much more complex than making lemonade, because there is no simple black and white to all of life‘s problems. Trust me, there’s a whole lot of gray in the middle, like the human body, life looks simple on the outside until you cut into the skin and it reveals the complexity of it’s circular pluming.
In his directorial debut Writer/Director Daniel Jordano lays out an important message to his viewers in the film FROG DREAMS, a message that’s in many ways is sincere and true to life itself. You’re not going to get everything you want in life, but boo f****** hoo, life goes on and you need to man up and take the hand you’ve been dealt and deal with it. The perfect example would be one of the film’s primary characters, Mickey Chanos (Played by Daniel Jordano), here’s a guy who had a decent job writing medical books for the medical field, he had it all, a great pay to support his family that included benefits, however his real passion is really writing children’s books and as you know there‘s very little time to write a children’s book when you‘re busy writing complex medical books, so he makes the biggest decision on his life and quits his job to pursue a career which suits him more. But because of his inability to deal with his inner fears with moving forward with his dreams he’s left to settle for the alternative which is anything that keeps his mind occupied, which in this case is being a self-employed mover. His decision leads to him living out of his own car while his wife and son live their own lives without him. He is obviously regretful for some of the actions that led him down this path but cannot find it in him to fully progress beyond his current situation in life until he meets Jim Evans (Played by John Squire) a choke addicted (financial) Fund manager whom has just lost his job in the industry after blowing millions in investments in the recession and is looking for someone to help him move his stuff. After the two become acquainted their personal lives and dire situations become entwined with each other.
Frog Dreams might not be the Oscar worthy indie drama most people kill to see, but it’s proved to be a very interesting conversation piece that worth looking into to say the least. The general plot is appealing and very relatable. Watching these characters and their inner personal problems bleed out in the open before each other leaves each of the characters venerable, but it’s their vulnerability and the risk taken for another human being that’s a complete stranger none the less, that’s also strengthening and leave both with a unlikely friend out of the ordeal which I found to be heartfelt and quite powerful. For an indie on a small budget, Frog Dreams stands out for having top notch film quality that I can honestly say can rival some bigger budgeted Indies I’ve seen in the past. The dialogue plays a major part to the film as much of the movie takes place in or around the characters conversing between each other, and while the dialogue at times proved to be compelling and helps the film progress, it also plays as it’s Achilles’ heel because the film tends to slow down and drags on in certain areas. But that’s easily forgiven as most conversational dramas like this tend to do the exact same thing from time to time. What I did feel was a deal breaker for me though sort of speak, was it’s underwhelming ending that left me feeling like things didn’t quite get resolved as I would have liked it to have. Throughout the film we’re presented with multiple obstacles for both Mickey and Jim to overcome, and there is a clear presence of tension building up big to one of these obstacles (I‘m not gonna spoil it so bare with me here) and when the time arrives for this moment of truth we’re left under-whelmed with a less then par result that to a degree angered me. However despite the disappointing hiccup of a ending Frog Dreams still has a lot of value in it that is something worth looking into.
As for the acting: the acting was a slight mix bag here, from having some solid performances to just okay performances to underwhelming performances. I’ve always been the type of person who starts off with the good news so lets start with the good shell we. Daniel Jordano performance as Mickey was superb and serves as the perfect complement to John Squire’s performance as Jim, it’s pretty clear that the chemistry onscreen resonates from a real life friendship between the two as there is a sense of authenticity present here, which means that either they’re friends in real life or this is proof of fantastic acting between them. Kara M. Tyler delivered a incredible performance as Sophia Chanos, her performance as an angered and emotionally hurt spouse was just and true to the character and deserves kudos for it. Keith Jamal Downing was very exceptional as the drug dealer Rashad, serving as the film’s antagonist, though one would argue that the real enemy in the film was actually the main character’s themselves at times as their own worst enemy for holding themselves back at achieving their goals true goals. But Keith still pulls off an exceptionally well performance I did have one slight complaint here, while he did a fantastic job for the most part onscreen the end scene felt a bit held back for the character and should have gone further. still though, it’s only one minor problem. Toni Vitale gave an acceptable performance as Marisa Evans, though I would have liked to had seen a little more tension onscreen between her character and John Squire’s character. Her performance was still very acceptable in my opinion. Lauren Steffany performance as Kristen Evans was one of the major problems I had in the film. Her character felt painfully unmoving for someone who’s been disappointed by her father her whole life, nothing against the actress as I’m sure she’s a decent actress to boot, but her performance came off as mild and noticeably scripted, as a viewer, not just a critic, I should be taken in by the characters in the film and feel for them, their emotions is what connects the viewer to them and more importantly, the story, and sadly I was not feeling this with Lauren as Kristen.
Final Say: Like many films, Frog Dreams suffered from the same generic problems most movies tend to encounter especially with keeping focus on the main plot, yes it’s very flawed and there seems to be a slight issue with plot pacing from time to time. But the film did present a very interesting and somewhat empowering message, that life isn’t going to be easy and it probably never will for some, but just because life is going to be rough doesn’t mean you should just through in the towel and give up, that you should man up can take what’s dished out and continue moving forward. Frog Dreams may not have been the masterpiece I would have like, but it’s certainly worth taking a stab at.

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