She’s In Portland Image

She’s In Portland

By Andrew Stover | September 24, 2020

In the course of this harebrained yet life-affirming cross-city expedition, Wes and Luke encounter fresh faces, heavenly landscapes, and unbridled joy in the form of college parties. Both characters are nearing the age of forty, so feelings of regret are beginning to emerge. Setting the stage with a high school reunion, and the contrasting life of two best friends, She’s in Portland gives us two highly conflicted characters, who visibly favor each other’s lives but are unable to find the right words. To make up for their lack of honesty, Wes and Luke airily interact through persiflage. Right from the get-go, their friendship rings true. And when the convenient detours and overly sapient supporting characters continue to propel Wes and Luke’s inward and outward journey neatly, Tommy Dewey and Francois Arnaud inherit diverting chemistry that vivifies the emotional stakes. 

From the city of Santa Barbara, which sits on a coastal plain between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the sea; to the city of San Francisco, which is home to the Golden Gate Bridge; and finally to Crescent City, which is home to the Stout Grove Trailhead, She’s in Portland fleetingly captures each city with enough distinction. Devin Whetstone’s splendid cinematography immerses you into Wes and Luke’s trek by depicting the sun-drenched, photographic setting through an arresting succession of overhead shots and long shots. You become spellbound by the surrounding beauty. As Wes and Luke descend into a downward spiral, the camera does judder a bit to enhance their fugacious surges of anger or confusion. 

“…able to overcome most plot contrivances by nicely exposing the imperfections of Wes and Luke’s life.”

Along their excursion, Wes and Luke attract the likes of many women. They party with frivolous college girls and they also meet a divorcé named Rebecca (an engagingly vulnerable and shrewd Joelle Carter), who yields perspective on Luke’s outlook on romantic relationships. Regrettably, even with a skilled cast, the supporting characters aren’t given much to do. Granted, this is Wes and Luke’s story, and their endless struggle to discover themselves and what’s important to them. But supporting characters are supposed to help enliven a main character’s journey, keep them on the correct path, and they can only do that tellingly if they’re fairly developed as well. Admittedly, some of the female characters offer sage advice, but some more effectively than others. In some instances, the dialogue can come across as histrionic.

Providing breathtaking views, a central friendship that holds necessary weight, and lush, stylistic choices (sensible use of slow-mo and static shots), She’s in Portland is able to overcome most plot contrivances by nicely exposing the imperfections of Wes and Luke’s life. Wes’ unremitting magnetism and confidence would have you believe that he’s happy, that he’s the perfect husband and father, but he’s not. Luke’s despondency would have you believe that dreams are meant to be abandoned at some point, but they aren’t. Marc Carlini’s tale of discovery has everything to do with the pursuit of love, freedom, and commitment. Even if not all characters are properly utilized, the two core characters are largely examined — and their friendship makes this road trip worth the time. 

She’s In Portland screened at the 2020 Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

She's in Portland (2020)

Directed: Marc Carlini

Written: Marc Carlini, Patrick Alexander

Starring: Tommy Dewey, Francois Arnaud, Minka Kelly, Joelle Carter, Nicole LaLiberte, etc.

Movie score: 7.5/10

She's in Portland Image

"…both characters are nearing the age of 40, so feelings of regret are beginning to emerge."

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  1. Judi Eicher says:

    Great movie! We saw it at the Boston Film Festival. Excellent introspective into a few adult struggles. Great cinematography and dialogue!

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