Lucas (Oliver Singer) lands a part on a major new Netflix fantasy series. But after retooling the script, his character gets sidelined to just two episodes. Now Lucas is in need of a job because money is a necessary evil. He interviews for a position at Roomie, a sort of Airbnb site, and gets a two week trial period. As he integrates himself with his colleagues at work at the office, he discovers that Julie (Uzoamaka Maduka), his college sweetheart, is now engaged to his best friend, Graham (Brant Rotnem). To make matters worse, Graham is the star of Knight In Bavaria, the Netflix show which canned Lucas.
So goes the existential malaise of Silicon Beach, a surprisingly enjoyable movie about a man at a crossroads. Writer-director Max Gold’s feature-length debut’s heartfelt ending honestly hits home. At first, Lucas comes across as a little flippant and aloof. He is doing his onboarding with the head of human resources, Lily (Erica Lupinacci), and never realized that’s her job title. He also zones out before being brought back to reality by quality assurance engineer Dana (Elizabeth Grullon) throwing something small at him.
As the movie progresses, it becomes evident that Lucas’s flawed character is the point. Watching him grow as a person and artist gives the film its resonance. After the employees find out about the direction the company is going, Lucas listens to everyone vent their frustrations and fears and genuinely tries helping; something he wouldn’t have done when he first started the job.
“…the employees find out about the direction the company is going, Lucas listens to everyone vent their frustrations…”
The CEO of Roomie, Keith (Ben Palacios), is built up as this fantastic, humble human being that deeply cares for his employees. A company retreat/ team building weekend pulls back the curtain to reveal a man that has foibles and wants and desires, much to the dismay of Roomie’s office workers. Even Julie and Graham have a nice little arc, which is tied into Lucas’s overall journey. All the characters, save for one, come across as authentic and real to life.
The exception is Greta (Andrea Snædal), the lead programmer. At she and Lucas’s first meeting, she puts him on the spot and demands that he act for her, “…or else she’ll have him fired.” He complies and does a short monologue, after which her comments make it clear she does not understand it at all. Later on, during the retreat, she again does not understand what Lucas is saying. If any part of this aspect of Greta’s characterization is meant to be humorous, the joke fails spectacularly; if she is supposed to be this dumb then other aspects of her character fall apart. These awkward moments take away from Silicon Beach’s overall impact.
Those character flaws are not meant to take anything away from Snædal’s portrayal of the character. She does a good job, bringing a lot of sincerity to the role when the script allows her to break free from the already discussed peculiarities. Palacios sells the CEO’s greed well and makes sure the audience understands where he is coming from.
“…Gold’s writing is best when the script gets out of the actors’ ways so they can sink their teeth into the characters…”
Singer does an admirable in the lead role. Remaining likable in the first twenty to thirty minutes of Silicon Beach is a task not every actor would be up for. But Singer succeeds in getting the audience to relate to him. His reaction to Lily’s non-sequitur about liking Jay-Z is hilarious, and his apology to Beau, Roomie’s product manager, for an unintended slight is candid and earnest.
As the acclaimed actor on the hit show, Rotnem is bigger than life and loads of fun. It is Erica Lupinacci that walks away with the movie though. As the talkative Lily, she steals every scene she is in with charm and moxie to spare. Her final scene is her telling Lucas that she is his friend and that she hopes he is hers too. It is sweet and touching.
Max Gold’s writing is best when the script gets out of the actors’ ways so they can sink their teeth into the characters. But as a director, his understated style allows for an intimate relationship with Lucas.
In the end, Silicon Beach is a well-made movie with interesting characters. The writing, especially for Greta, doesn’t always make sense but the acting is in top form and the final twenty minutes are well worth it.
Silicon Beach (2018) Directed by Max Gold. Written by Max Gold. Starring Oliver Singer, Elizabeth Grullon, Erica Lupinacci, Ben Palacios, Andrea Snædal. Silicon Beach screened at the 2018 Dances With Films.
7 Gummi Bears (out of 10 Gummi Bears)