Do you remember 1985? Did you live in New York that year? If you do, and you did, then “EAST OF A” will be a fun time down memory lane. If not, then it’s still an interesting look at the lives of twentysomething New Yorkers living the decadent eighties and health-crazed nineties.
Well, it’s 1985 and New York has the lowest vacancy rate in the U.S. Three friends have just moved into an apartment, but not before signing their souls away on a ten year lease. The apartment doesn’t look like much, but it seems to be a steal in the eyes of the new residents. The story slowly unfolds with one-day vignettes that span the ten years of the lease. Peter (Patrick Breen) has recently dropped out of seminary school, Reggie (Nadine van der Velde) is a struggling lounge singer, and Chart (Scott Kraft), well, Chart isn’t really doing much, but his drug connections keep his pockets full enough to pay rent each month. Although the future is always uncertain, they seem destined to span the length of the lease.
The performances by all three leads are enjoyable to watch, and never get tedious or predictable. Even when we think we’re getting to know the residents, a new facet of their personality is introduced. Amy Goldsein’s direction and the structure of the film create an interesting challenge for both director and actors. Without much back story on any of the characters and a persistent pace that doesn’t spend too much time on any particular year, Goldstein is able to take the well-known indie convention, shooting inside one room, and keep the viewer’s interest. The film never feels contrived or forces any unwanted plot elements into its challenging structure. By the end of the film you might not want to move in, but you do care about all three of the residents. If watching a film that’s refreshing and original isn’t enough enticement to give this one a chance, imagine the fun you could have watching ten years in the life of a nymphomaniac, a druggie, and an ex-priest.