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By Rory L. Aronsky | July 29, 2003

As a reviewer, there’s plenty of times where it feels like a real find has been made, like digging through a pile of crap and finding something that smells better. “Hale Bopp” is one of those real finds and it’s absolutely amazing what has been done here. It feels so honest in its portrayal of a shaky romance and what’s even more amazing is that, not only are the leads up to the task in making this one kick-a*s movie, but the writing actually holds up all the way through. There are times when premises seem promising, but weak writing can bring a real a*s whooping to the rest of the film. Nope, no beatdowns here.
Andrea Mustain plays Rachel, a real party girl who sleeps around and also works at a restaurant and a children’s hospital, photographing children. This chick really isn’t the type to dive into a real relationship, at least not until Ethan (Brad Eric Johnson) comes along. He’s an architect who’s come in from Washington D.C. to help out with a lakeside casino in the Windy City, and no, Chuck Woolery is not here to move things along. They meet, and talk, and talk, and talk. But the talking actually feels so very natural, as opposed to many other movies where the talking is rushed along to where the hot-and-heavy comes into play.
The chemistry between Mustain and Johnson is flawless. They don’t circle each other like hungry animals ready to pounce at the first sight of weakness from the opponent. Rachel and Ethan really take time to get to know each other. When they do hop into the sack later on though, it’s not an Oh-I’m-so-f*****g-h***y-from-all-this-talk-that-I-can’t-stand-it kinda thing. You figure that it has to happen sooner or later, but when it does, it’s meaningful for both parties. Oh yeah, and there’s also that little thing in Rachel’s past that Ethan doesn’t quite know about. He really doesn’t care about Rachel’s partying past, but it’s more than that, dealing with Rachel’s father.
There’s also the supporting cast to get through, which is as uber-cool as Mustain and Johnson. Bart (John Jordan) is an ex-con/website designer who’s not afraid at all to admit the former way of life. He also has a crush on Rachel and Ethan’s certainly no help in that department. Neil (John Stoops) is a friend of Ethan’s and a fellow architect who’s an ok guy, whenever the film gets around to seeing what in hell he’s up to.
Chris Rubeo has really proven himself with his first feature. The dialogue between characters feels genuine and his actors truly give it their all to make this not only one entertaining picture, but also a real honest one as well. Andrea Mustain and Brad Eric Johnson have such great performances and it doesn’t even feel like they’re acting! I’d use the word “electrifying” right now, but it just doesn’t feel right. It makes it sound like the person performed the entire film with a fork stuck in an electrical outlet. Both actors bring forth certain small details that bring a deeper understanding to the characters. At the beginning, when Rachel is greeting people left and right at the party, she seems sure of herself, but you can sense that deep down, she’s not really sure about all this. There’s another great scene where Neil and Ethan are outside and Neil asks Ethan how he’s settling into Chicago. Ethan stumbles a bit and even elicits a small smile at one point before saying to Neil that, “Chicago is good.” So simple and so good.
As I hear it, Rubeo’s next feature is a film called “Killer Margaritas”. The guy’s definitely got something going on and hopefully his newfound filmmaking mojo will serve him well in his next feature and even more to come. He’s definitely one to watch!

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