January 26, 2012

Sundance Review: California Solo

It seems that every actor has that chance to break back into the limelight with a small, character driven film, that sees him or her in the central role. Jeff Bridges had it with Crazy Heart, and it won him an Oscar. Gary Oldman had it with Tinker Tailor Solider Spy, and it better win him an Oscar. And now Robert Carlyle has is with California Solo, and his performance deserves and Oscar. Movie ain't all that bad either.

Lachlan is a former Britpop rocker who has fallen on hard times, and now finds himself working on an organic farm in California. Every night, he proceeds to drink himself into a stupor whilst recording his podcast, a dedication to music stars who died too young. One night, he is caught drunk driving, and with a previous charge of drug possession from way back when, Lachlan is facing deportation back to the UK, something he is all too keen to avoid. As his situation becomes more dire, he is forced to confront his demons and try to make amends with the people he has hurt.

So, yeah. You've seen this movie before. The aged rocker who was kind of a big deal, isn't really anything now, who finds a chance at some form of redemption? Yeah, you've seen it. And though California Solo's core story is something very familiar, some of the things it does are not. For example, the scenes set on the farm, that deal with the day to day process, are very unique and given great care. Also, Lachlan isn't trying to break back into the music business. He's given up on it completely, and has no interest in going back, which is also a fresh take.

And Robert Carlyle, man, Robert Carlyle! He is on a-whole-nother lever here! This is easily the best performance of the festival that I've seen so far, one with humor, emotion, and energy. As the movie progresses, Lachlan keeps digging a bigger and bigger hole for himself, but Carlyle always makes us sympathize with him. It's marvelous.

Supporting cast is strong as well, with special mention going to A. Martinez as Lachlan's increasingly irritated boss. But they are merely window dressing for the powerhouse that is Carlyle. The movie is his, and his alone!

The soundtrack is awesome, with melodic, twangy guitars fitting beautifully with the rustic, desert landscape that most of the movie takes place in, and the licensed tracks are an eclectic mix of all things Britpop. The direction by Marshall Lewy is confident and precise. This one to watch out for.

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