Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Review: "The Big Shot-Caller"

I recently had the pleasure of seeing Marlene Rhein's unheralded indie gem, The Big Shot-Caller, and having seen it I am honestly surprised that there has not been more advance buzz surrounding it.

I knew nothing about the film going in, which is a rare o
ccasion. I like discovering films blind, but since it is my job to be informed, those moments are few and far between.

On paper it sounds like a typical underdog does well flick, about a socially awkward, legally blind loner named Jamie (David Rhein) who is stuck in a boring desk job and can't seem to hold onto a relationship, even when he seems to have found one that i
s actually working. His sister, a dancer named Lianne (Marlene Rhein), encourages him to take salsa lessons, since he was obsessed with Strictly Ballroom as a kid. So Jamie takes up ballroom dancing, but with his eye condition and his awkward nature finds it much more difficult than he first thought. But that doesn't discourage his stubborn spirit, that is determined to succeed and achieve his childhood dream at all costs.

It would be easy to dismiss The Big Shot-Caller (whose title refers to God) based on that description alone, but to do that would be to miss out on what an easygoing charmer it is. Filmed in a low budget, shot in an on the fly style, the film often seems at once artificial and naturalistic, captured in the moment and yet staged, often due to the amateurish quality of some of the acting. But that is part of its charm. Rhein's screenplay is witty and original, never taking the expected path and nimbly avoiding cliches and narrative pitfalls. She strikes a fine balance between humor and nostalgic emotion, and never is her sharp dialogue more on display than in her own sarcastic performance as Lianne, to her real life brother David's (whose life inspired the film) Jamie. Rhein always keeps in real, and nothing in the film feels forced or overwrought. Even when it begins to teeter into sentimentality in the end, it doesn't matter because by that time she's already hooked you.

I liked the film's unpolished, do-it-yourself aesthetic. And while it may be a little rough around the edges, it's hard to deny The Big Shot-Caller's inherent likability. I wanted to wrap it up in a big hug. It's just that kind of film. This is definitely "little indie that could" material. And while in all actuality it may not ever break out beyond the art house circuit in its limited release, this is the kind of feel good comedy that really makes this job worth it. Every time I discover a film like this I can't help but smile, and I know I left The Big Shot-Caller with a big grin on my face. This is why I love this job. There is nothing more thrilling than discovering a new filmmaker and a new talent, and Rhein, who had previously cut her teeth on music videos, is definitely one to watch.

GRADE
- ★★★ (out of four)

THE BIG SHOT-CALLER; Directed by Marlene Rhein, Stars David Rhein, Marlene Rhein, Laneya Wiles, Leslie Eva Glaser, Robert Costanzo; Not Rated; Now showing at The Quad in NYC.

2 comments:

Marc said...

Well then ... based on Lucas' review I'm planning to go see this film for myself. I loved seeing Bella the last time I attended a movie in Manhattan. Something tells me I'm going to like The Big Shot-Caller. Can't wait.

Marc Brammer
South Bend, IN

michaela said...

I totally agree with your comments LUCAS.....It is a great movie within a small story. Everybody can identify with..it´s worth visiting and even there is nothing new telling about tough times and how to deal with it ...it is all about love, faith and hope..and yes it leaves a big grin on your face....
we need those kind of story telling movies as it gives us a reason to not giving in and up . no matter what happens in our own lives....
+last but not least....blood is thicker than tears: family counts !
enjoy !

Michaela
new york/ munich