Oh, the quintessential American dream: that iconic white picket fence, framing a perfect home managed by a flawless husband/wife duo, two happy children, and a family dog. Broadcast around the world by the razzle-dazzle of Tinseltown, which has manufactured a legion of movies over the years that encapsulates this idea that determination equals success and prosperity. In the land of the angels, success doesn’t stop at the charming, mortgage-free, suburban house, though.
It’s measured by the magnitude of money. Exuberant, extreme, endless amounts of wealth that is. Riches that the movie industry has advertised as possible to all who desire it. For what is Hollywood without it’s identifying, commercialized optimism? That 15-minutes-of-fame so many have skyrocketed through, peaking and crashing back down to the ground as quickly as you can say, “trending now.” It’s a tentative slope, one that can push a person to the edge, eager to test what someone would sacrifice for the tempting pull of easy celebrity.
The battle of fame v. integrity is the underlying core theme for satirical comedy An L.A. Minute. Written and directed by Daniel Adams, the star-studded feature is best described as an all-bets-are-off, moronically profound affair.
In the lavish world of best-selling author Ted Gould (Gabriel Byrne), opulence, power, and silver platters are all but a given, as is the case for a man who gets everything he ever wants. Ted is miserable, finding himself mechanically going through the motions. Up until one day, when he accidentally gives a homeless beggar his lucky medallion, setting off a series of events that forces the writer to reconsider everything. Muggings carried out by unlikely duos, shootings, one-woman shows, escorts who paint nails, wives that seize homes, nudity on live TV – you name it, An L.A. Minute has got it. Along the way on this preposterous journey, Ted’s path collides with Velocity (Kiersey Clemons), a performance artist who inspires the older man to revisit why he does what he does, and for whom.
Velocity is an enigma herself – untethered but ethically sound. She works to remind Ted about what matters most. Before jumping to the conclusion that this feature is a cliche-ridden piece; fear not, it’s explicitly the opposite. The electrifying chemistry between Byrne and Clemons rids the movie of any chance for a cast that can’t deliver. Clemons puts on the show of her life, as a cynically compassionate millennial, intent on pushing the buttons of everyone who lets her. Byrne’s burnt-out, inquisitive, guileless Ted precisely compliments the spontaneous spark of his co-star.
Bitingly first-rate, An L.A. Minute keeps up with its own breakneck pace. It leans towards overshooting it when it comes to the fine line between satire and offense; surpassing political correctness with the defiant aim of staying P.C., but the point succeeds. Banking on a quick-witted audience, screenwriters Adams, and Larry Sloman give the works with this inherent parody about an industry that steals souls.
“…a performance artist who inspires the older man to revisit why he does what he does, and for whom.”
Doubtless, the most crucial part of this film is that all of L.A. is showcased. This feature film is not just the customary shots of the glitz, glam, and glitter that drives hordes of tourists to Tinseltown. It’s camera grabs of people sleeping rough in desolate areas and poverty as clear as day. Arresting sequence after sequence, An L.A. Minute wants us to see and recognize that the epochal American city is not just a playground for the filthy rich. It’s also a home for the poverty-stricken.
This motif of the narrative is palpable, with director Adams remaining convicted to the cause from start to finish. Within the first few minutes of the movie, we witness Ted’s flighty agent Shelly (Bob Balaban) and coy PR manager Tracy (Katherine Kendall) attempt to make homelessness “sexy” for the sake of a photo shoot. As you’d expect, it’s a scene to balk at, but Balaban and Kendall carry it off in such an outlandish manner that there’s little chance of being rubbed the wrong way. So goes the rest of the 86 minutes. Surrealist events run amock, all the while the man at the heart of the story (Byrne) spends his time attempting to recapture his ethos.
Classified as a comedy, it doesn’t serve up the belly laughter or lightheartedness expected of the genre, at least in the traditional sense. Nor is there a satisfying ending that would align it snugly into the dramatic grouping. What it does do is excel in outright mockery of a persistent cultural issue. Primarily, the ignorance of those immersed in affluence towards the plight of their suffering neighbors.
An L.A. Minute seems to be sending a message: care for the people around you. If you walk by people begging on the street, stop to help, just as Ted Gould does (but try to avoid giving away your most prized memorabilia). Displayed remarkably in the sequence where Ted and Velocity sleep rough for a night because of a challenge of authenticity (it’s bizarre – don’t say I didn’t warn you), An L.A. Minute serves to remind us that a lack of a home does not mean a lack of humanity.
In light of that, this satirical cinematic snapshot of bona fide L.A. is a must-see. The real fortune of this piece doesn’t come from the streets of Beverly Hills, but from a progressive production, that’s worth its weight in gold.
An L.A. Minute (2018) Directed by Daniel Adams. Written by Daniel Adams and Larry Sloman. Starring Gabriel Byrne, Kiersey Clemons, Bob Balaban, Katherine Kendall.
8 out of 10 stars