Diminuendo

A director whose life crumbled when Cello, his Hollywood starlet girlfriend, killed herself, becomes obsessed with a robot designed to replicate her after he’s offered the chance to direct the film of Cello’s life.

Diminuendo follows the tragic story of a successful film director Haskell Edwards (Richard Hatch) who’s girlfriend Cello (Chloe Dykstra) commits suicide hours after winning a coveted acting award. Following the tragedy, Haskel spends nearly a decade sputtering from job to schlocky job fueled on coke and booze, and longing for his glory days to return. That they do, in a form no one really expects.

Enter a mysterious tech company headed by David White (Peter James Smith) whose goal is to create lifelike robotic figures. As Haskel sits confused in their conference room, a perfect mechanical recreation of his dead girlfriend walks in (Dykstra). The company would like to make a film based on Cello’s life and they want Haskel to direct it. Their aim is to showcase their technology in order to sell it on a larger scale. After hesitating, he reaches out to others who knew Cello and the project begins.

“…a perfect mechanical recreation of his dead girlfriend walks in.”

Along for the ride is Milton Green (Walter Koenig) as the scene-stealing agent of Haskel. He has seen his client through the best of times, and now, he isn’t sure what this particular project will pan out to be. Haskell’s fiery temperament butts creative heads with the screenwriter on the project and the cast as his increasing devotion to the memory of his beloved is in serious danger of being tarnished forever.

Diminuendo is an interesting, but ultimately unsatisfying exploration of a filmmaker forced to create art from the ghosts of his past. Richard Hatch, in what is ubiquitously billed as his final feature film performance, does a marvelous job with the part of Haskell. Withered and filled with sorrow, Hatch’s bitter portrayal of a man at the end of his career is haunting. While it is a single-note performance of anger and artistic expression that features moments of genuinely believable pathos.

“…being Hatch’s swan song, it is an impressive and haunting performance…”

Directed by Adrian Stewart, the script from Sarah Goldberger and Bryn Pryor has its moments. In particular, there is some clever storytelling when Haskel is shooting scenes for his film while recalling how events actually took place. Intercutting back and forth between past reality and present fiction we see how the two compare in real time, understanding Haskell in what he chooses to fight for, and what he lets slide as semi-truth. These are the scenes where Diminuendo really shines. So it is a shame that the script is a little fatter than it should be, clocking in at 1 hour 45 mins, we can look back at scenes that could have been trimmed or dropped altogether. In particular the subplot between movie actor Lance (Kiki Salcido) and a representative from the tech company who invented the robot. These are all superfluous to the real story at hand, adding nothing to the main narrative.

Does Cello’s life story get made? Does Haskell win out with his particular vision? You will have to see for yourself. But, it doesn’t take a tech company or visions of the future to know that this serviceable movie will soon be available on VOD. You can make your mind up then. As for this being Hatch’s swan song, it is an impressive and haunting performance that he would have been proud of.

Diminuendo (2018) Directed by Adrian Stewart. Written by Sarah Goldberger, Bryn Pryor. Starring Richard Hatch, Chloe Dykstra, John Champion, Alex Hill 3, Walter Koenig, Peter James Smith. Diminuendo made its West Coast Debut at the 2018 Dances With Films.

5 out of 10

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