Writer-director Spencer Zender’s What’s My Name Again? brings us back to the mid-1980s and Southern California’s beautiful seaside. Immersed in the prevalent beach bum hippie culture, Bo (Ryan Winn) discovers he must make a life-defining choice as he turns 18. This seemingly quintessential Southern California teen’s identity unravels as he’s forced to choose one of his three fathers’ last names. A coming-of-age story that might get lost in its marijuana smoke and endless beers, the film makes a point of referring to a time when things were slightly different. The sun, palm trees, and waves at high tide were all good, and there were no cell phones, only answering machines with telephones that used chords.
Bo holds a swimming record, which is his ticket to college, and dates the wealthy Alea Kai (Talia Mychael Blaney). His best friend, Griffin Nelson (Nick Schultz), has to come to terms with his sexual identity. Refreshing and simple as the past appears, this is not the case for Bo. His world turns upside down when he finds out he was never adopted by one of his fathers, which his mother, Karen (Allison Byrnes), tells him just before his 18th birthday. With street humor and quick wit, Karen anchors the fun, though sometimes things get a bit challenging to follow.
“…quintessential Southern California teen’s identity unravels as he’s forced to choose one of his three fathers’ last names.”
Bo’s dads are all an archetype for a type of man. Yet not one is an appealing father figure, even though Scott Baxter (Theodore Newton), Robert Olfasson (Lucas Coleman), and Jimmy Humpton (Daniel Abraham Stevens) try. Thus revealing another level of identity crisis. The frustrations Bo feels throughout What’s My Name Again? are authentic because it is a question of identity that has to be corrected while also deciding who the lead is as a person, regardless of his name. Bo has to overcome a great deal of personal anger when choosing who he wants to be. To say he has a father complex is an understatement, which is true for his girlfriend’s father.
At his 18th birthday party, Bo, Alea, and Griffin attend a pool party of bizarre characters. Things get wild with booze lockers for birthday shots, a bunch of twisted sisters, and redneck relatives, including Bo’s grandparents, who drink martinis with hotdogs. Many funny lines and comments include a card game for “tits only.” With all three fathers in one place, Bo reminisces and wonders while the drinks flow and punches go wild. What might be considered a raunchy beach world does have some merit as Bo goes forth with all the exciting advisement, deciding upon a name and swimming for his future.
A decent soundtrack sets the tone for What’s My Name Again?. The great cinematography of the ocean, during sunsets, and in other spots makes the locations alluring. Zender has some interesting points on life and identity, as his characters are appealing. It could be interesting to see what Zender does next and if Bo’s natural curly hair will reappear — it’s a good look.
For more information about What’s My Name Again?, visit the Other Brother Productions official website.