In Jon Bowden's first feature a commitment-phobic guy has somehow gotten three years into a relationship without either he, his brother or sister-in-law spilling the beans about their dysfunctional family. It is a secret he would like to keep, which won't be easy with his monster mother paying a visit. Adapted from Bowden's play Big Mouth, The Full Picture suffers from a few debut film kinks, but it is an amiable and occasionally hilarious dramedy with plenty of appeal to fans of relationship stories. With a no-name cast and self-distributed at a time when indies are facing a general malaise at the box office, its future is murky, which could turn brighter if good word of mouth greets its limited, inaugural run.
With their high-strung mother, Gretchen (Bettina Devin), about to descend on them, Mark's (Daron Jennings) older brother Hal (Joshua Hutchinson) lowers the boom: It's time for Mark to come clean with girlfriend Erika (Lizzie Ross) and confess the details of their parents' sordid divorce and public humiliation-oh, and pop the darn question already. Too freaked about Mom's impending arrival, Mark can't or won't upset the status quo. And while he mentions that Gretchen carries a camera with her at all times, he does not spell out the full implication of that little tic. Nor does he mention that beneath Mom's surface polish hides an embittered, corrosive soul who may have learned about parenting by reading up on Medea. Mark's idea is that if Hal will just keep his trap shut, they can get through the visit without Erika ever being the wiser.
It is a fool's errand to think one can escape the past, especially when that past continues to influence the present as it does with Mark. Bowden gets that point across beautifully with warmth and good humor and a few moments that rise to inspired farce. With the aid of cinematographer Cliff Traiman and an array of picturesque San Francisco locations, he succeeds in shedding the story's stagebound origins. Shot in HD, the images are crisp and beautiful. He even makes great use of Gretchen's ever present digital camera, using each new snap during a day of sightseeing to transition quickly and cleanly to a new location.
There are a few hiccups. Bowden succeeds in opening up his play, but some of the dialogue still plays more like a theatrical conceit than how people actually talk. Devin and Ross both deliver forceful, credible performances. Jennings, Hutchinson, and Heather Mathieson (as Hal's wife Beth) are mostly very good, but at times come across as a little tentative. Mostly, though, the film works. There are laughs and a little heartbreak and Bowden manages to create empathy for all of his characters, even monster mom.
Distributor: One Big Head Films
Cast: Daron Jennings, Lizzie Ross, Joshua Hutchinson, Bettina Devin and Heather Mathieson
Director/Screenwriter/Producer: Jon Bowden
Running time: 80 min.
Release date: June 11 ltd