What's transpired after September 11th? Writer/director Elizabeth Lucas goes to work on a number of the survivors, still licking their wounds and rebuilding, brick by brick, after each searing anniversary. Lucas' musical slides in and out of anthem soundtrack and creates a mind-tripping, theater affair. Though naive in execution, the story gingerly bypasses loaded drama to pluck bushels of hope from obvious blight. Pegged to hit the indie house circuit, this musical fete should garner a wider distribution game plan.
The title of Lucas' musical is, in itself, prophetic. Anyone who was in New York City the morning of September 11, 2001, will recall the idyllic weather that day. It was mercifully sunny and clear after days and nights of consecutive thunderstorms. All the doom from that day stole clear blue skies from us (both literally and metaphorically). And in a sense, the film's exploration through a swath of interconnected folks shows just how human our humanity really is.
The picture's clogged with characters; as a result the lead characters are unable to shine and become second-class citizens. A montage of the characters before and after 9/11 unfolds in front of a pop-harp ditty performed by the Sci-Fi nerd Etta (Erin Hill). She halts plucking strings as a commercial plane zips past her window. The high-powered lawyer Jack (Greg Naughton) turns hobo after he's fired, social climber Reena (Julie Danao) and her husband Daniel (Jeremy Schonfeld) fall out of love even after welcoming their daughter's birth. Big hair musician Syd (Brother Love) is still trying to play butt rock guitar hero. Caroline (Jan O'Dell) goes from tiger lady businesswoman to scarred survivor. And artist Rose (Becca Ayers) can't create anything other than macabre collages out of 9/12 newspaper clippings.
Playing off Bollywood rhythm, the film favors minimal dialogue and pumps in several rock and pop numbers. Some are solid gold while others could have been cut outright. A surprising Spanish ballad by a messenger named Ricardo (Robi Hager) delivers beautifully, but then afterwards, characters are dragged down between songs and dialogue skids towards summary. Outside of a hilarious breakup scene, during which wannabe actress Sam (Cassandra Kibinski) is dumped by her freshly un-closeted beau, you almost beg the characters to sing so they don't say anything. Caroline yawns, "That eternity changed me." Compare that limp line to Daniel's punchy lyric: "It's my life, am I fucking it up, again?" Damn straight. Might have been prudent to nix the dialogue and go all the way with the musical.
Lucas clearly has a gift for musical videos. The actors are more comfortable when they are doing what they do best; performing music. Once that quiets so too does most of the effect. A proper nod must be given to the filmmakers for tackling a politically charged plot that is virtually untouchable. The musical motif is refreshing and saves the film from its foggy shortcomings. In the film, 9/11 sheds some of is demons to strum some tunes and embrace casual love and guiltless laughs. It's about time.
Contact: Isil Bagdadi, CAVU Pictures, firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-246-6300
Cast: Becca Ayers, Julie Danao-Salkin, Vedant Gokhale, Robi Hager, Erin Hill, Cassandra Kubinski, Brother Love, Greg Naughton, Jan O'Dell, Jeremy Schonfeld, Asa Somers
Director: Elizabeth Lucas
Screenwriters: Becca Ayers, Julie Danao, Verdant Gokhale, Robert Hager, Erin Hill, Cassandra Kubinski, Brother Love, Elizabeth Lucas, Greg Naughton, Jan O'Dell, Jeremy Schonfeld and Asa Somers
Producers: Elizabeth Lucas, Alexander Hammer, Daniel Wallace and Trish Whitehurst
Running time: 105 min
Release date: September 3 ltd.