Lost Angelas

In 2003, writer-director Matthew Parkhill made his feature-length debut with Dot The i. The twisty romantic thriller, which stars Gael García Bernal and Natalia Verbeke, was not well received by critics upon its release. It also did not bode well at the box office, even when one considers its very limited release. I for one find the film to be an underrated gem. The two bait and switches, while straining credibility, give the movie infinite rewatchability to piece everything together. After watching William Wayne’s stylish Lost Angelas, it seems that perhaps there is another Dot The i (yes, the I is lower-case) fan out there after all.

Jake Hart (William Wayne) is an aspiring screenwriter, who currently works as a bartender. After meeting event promoter and would-be actress Angela Rose (Korrina Rico) at a coffee shop, he finds the energy and passion for writing again. The two begin to see each other, eventually getting engaged. This happy occasion coincides with a big break for Jake’s latest script, as producer Walt Warshaw (Jon Jacobs) wants to meet with the young man.

That screenplay, about famous former actress Angie Malone (Charlotte Lewis), who may or may not have faked her death, was written with Angela in mind as the lead. Jake is running a few minutes late to his meeting with the aggressive producer and is told he is in the editing bay. Once Jake reaches his destination, he witnesses Walt kill two people. Jake helps to get rid of the bodies in exchange for fast-tracking the project and Angela must star in the film.

“…when the time for Angela’s reappearance grows near, she can’t be found. Did the plan work too well? Or, as Walt keeps insisting to an increasingly confused Jake, Angela wound up dead?”

After the movie is completed, the critics love it, yet an audience is not showing up. Devising a life imitates art scenario, Jake suggests Angela skip the next few awards shows; for all intents and purposes, she will have disappeared. The scheme works, drumming up publicity for the movie, on top of all the awards its star is garnering. However, when the time for Angela’s reappearance grows near, she can’t be found. Did the plan work too well? Or, as Walt keeps insisting to an increasingly confused Jake, Angela wound up dead?

There is a lot to unpack in Lost Angelas, and the above plot synopsis barely scratches the surface of all the subplots. Angela’s father Vince (David Proval) is a mafia man, and there’s a police investigation into Angela’s whereabouts, not to mention Jake’s schizophrenia. Happily, William Wayne, who wrote, directed, produced, edited, and stars in the film handles it all with ease. The man clearly had a vision for the movie, and it comes across most engagingly.

The editing is jaw-dropping. The mirrored cuts—one image from a scene is reflected by characters (the same or different) in the next sequence—is spellbinding. Angela and Jake are talking at the bar and then smash cut to them on a date. It flows together because their movements on the date match the way the two moved in the bar. The entire film is edited this brilliantly, and it is invigorating and intense. Moreover, this doesn’t even get into the non-linear storytelling nor the flashbacks and hallucinations a possibly schizophrenic Jake keeps experiences.

Wayne’s considerable talents don’t stop there as the lighting and cinematography, thanks to Ana Maria Manso, ensure a gorgeous looking movie. The use of strong, single colored lights for each segment of the story (Jake’s flashbacks, the shooting of the film, pre-dating, etc.) create a rich neo-noir atmosphere. And everything is tied together with Carson Aune’s sumptuous score.

“William Wayne, who wrote, directed, produced, edited, and stars in the film…clearly had a vision for the movie…”

William Wayne as the conceivably delusional Jake hits all the right notes. He is charming and romantic when called to be, is scary at times, and believably confused at others. Angela is played by Korrina Rico who strikes the right balance between frustrated artist, romantic partner, and party girl. In one heartbreaking scene, she tells Walt, who is also directing the movie, that is it impossible for her to concentrate with Jake in her sight line via the mirror. The viewer can’t quite tell if she’s serious or being malicious. That ambiguity is necessary to keep the suspense high.

Jacobs is terrifying as the tyrannical, murderous filmmaker. The man is a smooth talker, and Jacobs has the audience buying into his brand of crazy with just a few words and a devastating look. As the shady, well-connected father Proval knows the key to his character is for the audience never to know what reaction he’ll have. His cruel streak and the tenderness for his daughter come through in equal measure.

While there is a lot to adore about Lost Angelas, it is not without issues. A scene of Jake and Angela in bed, with her giving him the cold shoulder begins a bit abruptly. I don’t mean that the previous scene did not come to a natural conclusion; it had. However, it feels like the scene begins five seconds too late, so establishing the new location and what’s happening is sloppy here.

The other issue is the parallels between Angie Malone and Angela Rose; the lost Angelas of the title. Seeing their parallel career paths is interesting, but due to a particular (slightly predictable) moment involving Jake, creating a private life parallel would have strengthened the conclusion, in which everything comes full circle. It is hard to describe without spoiling everything, but it is the one puzzle piece that could have fit better if dealt with earlier; if that makes sense.

Lost Angelas is neo-noir romance filled with engaging characters, intense action, a thrilling mystery, and a lovely romance to top it all off. The directing, acting, and especially the cinematography synch up perfectly for a pulse-pounding film, that works wondrously.

Lost Angelas (2019) Directed by William Wayne. Written by William Wayne. Starring William Wayne, Korrina Rico, Jon Jacobs, David Proval, Charlotte Lewis, Melissa Mars.

9 out of 10 Star-Crossed Lovers

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