Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Lust For Love

Lust For Love did not get a theatrical release - it went straight to video-on-demand/the internet. This is because it is a tiny independent film with a minuscule budget. The filmmakers were so strapped for cash that they raised some of it on Kickstarter - and considered 100k a success for that campaign. The only reason it ended up on my list of movies to watch is that the cast includes a large number of actors I know and like from Joss Whedon shows (mostly Dollhouse).

Despite the tiny budget and the lack of any actors recognizable to the general movie-going public, this movie turned out rather well. I do not have a high opinion of romantic comedies in general, but this exemplar contains healthy doses of key things I like in a movie regardless of genre - witty dialogue and good acting. It does also contain characters being embarrassed and humiliated, which I always find uncomfortable - but not enough of it to be a serious problem.

The story starts with the end of a relationship - specifically, the main character (Astor) finally got his childhood crush (Mila), and then she dumped him. He then turns to Mila's friend Cali for advice on how to win her back. They run through a variety of scenarios which anyone familiar with The Game will recognize, with a variety of twists that are best left undescribed.

The roster of good but unappreciated actors in this film is quite impressive. As far as I can tell, this particular confluence of talent happened because the writer/director, Anton King, sent the script to Dichen Lachman, who plays Cali (and was Sierra on Dollhouse). She liked it, and agreed to star and co-produce. Most of the other key actors are people she knew from Dollhouse, which does not seem likely to be a coincidence.

The lead, Astor, is played by Fran Kranz, who was Topher on Dollhouse (and also Marty in The Cabin in the Woods and Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing). He brings just the right combination of endearing and clueless to the character.

The love interest, Mila, is played by one of the few actors in the movie who does not have a Whedon credit. She is given the task of playing an antagonist (in that she opposes Astor's primary desire to renew a relationship) while still being believably desirable. Sadly, this does not work that well, though it is a lot to ask of an actor - it is frequently hard to see why Astor wants her back.

The third main character, Cali, is played by Dichen Lachman, whose Whedon connection was already mentioned. She may actually have more screen time than Mila, and makes the most of it. She was brilliant on Dollhouse and is here as well.

The movie also features Enver Gjokaj, whose character on Dollhouse, Victor, shared many scenes with Lachman's Sierra. For me, he was the best actor on the show, and while his part in Lust For Love does not have the range of Victor, he is still great.

The movie also includes a small part for Miracle Laurie (Mellie/November on Dollhouse) as well as a fabulous cameo for Felicia Day (who was in Dollhouse, Dr Horrible, and Buffy).

Amazingly, Whedon himself was not involved in the project.

As with most small independent films, this was a labor of love for first-time feature writer/director Anton King. As a first effort, this is tremendous. If he gets better from here, he should do quite well for himself. The low mark for production value is due to the small budget, not to talent.

Performance: 4/5
Plot: 3.5/5
Production: 2.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5
Bechdel: Pass
Reverse-Bechdel: Pass
Mako Mori: Fail
What are these?

1. Lone Survivor
2. The Lego Movie
3. Lust For Love
4. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
5. I, Frankenstein
6. Monuments Men
7. Knights of Badassdom
8. The Legend of Hercules

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