|Review by Clay N Ferno|
Written and Directed by Ron Judkins
Starring Michael O’Keefe, Catherine Dent, Blake Bashoff,
Julie Mond, Sean Patrick Thomas, Mike Genovese
Do you ever feel stuck?
I’m sure some of us (speaking for myself of course) reaching middle age feel that way all the time. Even when stuff is going well, it’s never going anywhere it seems. Or, at least that’s how it is on the bad days.
When Sam Tucker (Michael O’Keefe — Caddyshack, Michael Clayton), a working cartoonist feels stuck he looks for his neighbors for some inspiration, support and a change of pace.
This independently released film was a great exploration into realistic characters and their lives intertwining. While dealing with somewhat mundane routines, Finding Neighbors never itself feels that way. This is a colorful portrait of Sam, his sensitivities as an aging man in a relationship and his relationship with his work and other people’s expectations of him.
Sam struggles with his ever straining relationship with his wife Mary (Catherine Dent, The Shield, Auto-Focus) and befriends his gay neighbor Jeff (Blake Bashoff, Lost) and gets intimate with the details of Jeff’s own ennui. Another neighbor Sherrie (Julie Mond, Exit Speed, General Hospital) plays the temptress next door whom Sam can see showering outdoors from his drawing studio window.
Will all of these complications make things better between Sam and Mary, and will Sam follow up his latest graphic novel with something — daresay anything? Mostly he’s stuck on his story and can’t get anywhere with it.
This is where Jeff comes in.
His Atwater Village (Los Angeles) neighbor is having some of his own struggles with his live-in boyfriend Paul (Sean Patrick Thomas, Save The Last Dance). The issue is that Jeff and his ex have been communicating causing some jealousy. When Sam, Jeff and Sherrie take a road trip to the ex’s apartment, this causes suspicion in both houses. Everything here is innocent and above-board as far as the partners are concerned, it seems that these two sneaking around is making things tense.
Jeff and Sam connect and go out on plutonic dates and get to the heart of many issues like how each of them perceives love and also the ‘give and take’ that comes with relationships. Turns out our old dog Sam learns a lot from Jeff and vice versa.
Jeff is also a huge fan of Sam’s graphic novel work — and perhaps the long walks, deep coffee chats and miniature golf outings will spark up Sam’s muse once again. That is, if his wife Mary doesn’t completely loose faith in Sam and his newly found ‘fuck it’ attitude.
The publishing company has given Sam an advance, and the pressure of coming up with a story may just push him into a stasis he can’t get out of. You can only draw that same line or crumple up so many pieces of paper before you want to scream or go back to bed.
Sometimes good art grabs you at just the right time. I’m approaching another birthday, things are going well, they could be better and if it weren’t for deadlines I wonder if I might just ever write anything left to my own devices. I’m (thankfully?) not being hounded about wasting my publisher’s advances but I can 100% relate to Sam’s plight.
“What if it’s crap? What if this is a stupid idea? How can I get out of this big rut?”. The tapes playing in the head of a creative person would drive a ‘norm’ bonkers. It’s a wonder Hollywood can churn anything out.
This is where writer/director Ron Judkins comes in. The Oscar and BAFTA award winning sound designer and dialogue recording and mixing master has worked on Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, and Minority Report to name a few. He enlisted the help of real life neighbors and producers Judy Korin and Jennifer Day Young to Kickstart this small movie into production.
With help from the rest of their Atwater Village neighbors and business they were able to make this film on a shoestring budget.
Ron and his team should be quite proud of this movie, that older and younger people will be able to relate to. Finding Neigbors finds a way for a community to work together to uplift and inspire one individual and his dreams, and the natural side effect is that everyone involved is better for it.