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By Brad Wilke | September 29, 2009

When a person has produced, written, directed and starred in a film, a viewer is faced with two possibilities:

1) That person is a genius.

2) That person has bitten off more than he can chew.

Unfortunately, in the case of Peter Otero and his film “Coast to Coast Diaries,” I’m afraid the answer is the latter.

“Coast to Coast Diaries” follows Paul – Peter’s alter ego? – from New York City to Los Angeles, where he tries to make it as an actor, but runs afoul of the law after a botched robbery. The film employs a framing device of a police interrogation to fill in Paul’s backstory, but fails to provide the necessary elements required to elicit any sympathy from the audience, falling into the common biopic trap of “then this happened” storytelling. WIthout an emotional connection, the audience has no reason to engage with the characters’ struggles and the film falls flat time and again until it finally catches up with itself and Paul decides to return to New York City.

Looking to make a fresh start, he immediately falls in with his old friend (Joe), gets his job back as a horse-drawn carriage driver, and makes preparations to reconnect with his former flame (Ashley). Ashley and Paul go camping and then, three months later, Paul leaves, dressed in a suit and carrying a valise, revealing his motives (and means) to his friend in voiceover. And then everything gets wrapped up tidily: Ashley reconnects with her mom, Joe drives off in a cab, and Paul heads back to Los Angeles with a suitcase-full of cash to make a movie. Very abrupt, to put it mildly.

From the unmotivated camera work, to the middling acting, to the haphazard editing (not to mention the slapdash staging and the meandering plot), this effort is best left on the shelf. That’s not to say that there isn’t some talent bubbling below the surface, because there is. It just gets overwhelmed by the sheer aimlessness of the production.

Props to Mr. Otero for pulling it together, though. But, next time around, this reviewer would recommend delegating some of the heavy lifting to more seasoned crew members, leaving space for the director to focus more intently on character and story.

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