Thirty-something and twenty-something slackers Steve and Dean meet at a bus stop at roughly 9:15 every morning in Los Angeles to knock back a few beers and shoot the breeze. Steve, like half of LA’s unemployed population, is an aspiring screenwriter. He’s currently developing a screenplay for which he has created a fantastic character, but he can’t find a story for his protagonist—or, more specifically, he can’t find a story arc for his lead.
What’s an arc? asks Dean.
Well, replies Steve, “life is like a straight line, then this catalyst hits and you go from here [raising hand] … to here [lowering hand]. That’s arc.”
Steve, of course, is referring to himself. Having recently lost his wife, he’s looking for a way to get her back into his life. He’s looking for an arc in his own story, for something to come along and push him into going after Kathy, his wife.
That arc comes in the form of a crazy homeless man, Skinny Jimmy, who makes an appearance at the bus stop every morning at exactly 9:21, when he zips by the bus stop and calls Steve and Dean “a*s monkeys.” But when Skinny Jimmy fails to make his scheduled appearance one morning, Steve and Dean, partly out of curiosity, mostly out of boredom, decide to go looking for the mysterious homeless man, Steve just might find that arc after all.
“Arc” is a simple, lighthearted comedy about life and love, patience and forgiveness. It occasionally slips into Kevin-Smith-interminable-scenes-of-too-much-dialogue-slash-exposition, and the subtext—the screenplay as a metaphor for Steve’s predicament—is so obviously and unnecessarily delineated for viewers that it’s a little insulting, as though writer/director Gelder (who also plays Steve) thought audiences wouldn’t understand the nuances of his script—the fictional script, by the way, is titled, and this is not a joke, “I’m So Sorry And I Miss You And I Will Always Love You, Kathy.” Then, as if thinking the title went over audiences’ heads, they cut to the title page three times while Steve peruses old photographs and tries to muster the courage to call Kathy.
The film would have worked better had they omitted all overt references to the screenplay. Use it as a McGuffin, as a way to introduce the idea of an arc, and leave the rest to pure unadulterated subtext, which has already been inferred perfectly through subtle dialogue.
But I’m nitpicking here.
Taken as a lighthearted slice of life, the film works fine. It is simple and whimsical, and, if you can get past the wooden acting and stilted direction, it’s a nice little distraction.