I think I’ve finally figured out the most common mistake with these kinds of twentysomething slacker films.
Too many people.
Let me explain. “Highland Park Blues” starts out with a character named John, who is being evicted from his apartment for non-payment of rent. This is actually the fault of his ex-girlfriend, who moved out a short while ago and didn’t pay $1600 worth of rent.
So John moves in with his friends, becoming the fourth roommate to the following archetypes:
The fat guy who wants to be a lawyer, but spends his days smoking pot and living off the money his uncle gives him while he tries to pass the bar.
The horny guy who has many theories about love and sex, but very little intelligence or ability.
The gay guy who isn’t out to his parents yet. Oh, and he cooks for the house, and he’s an epileptic recreational drug user studying to become a doctor. He’s also Chinese.
Now, any two of these people could easily provide sufficient material for any number of interesting movies. The fat guy could easily take up half a movie cleaning up his life and making something of himself.
John could learn something about life and love and the difference between the sexes.
The gay guy could learn that drugs are bad, and open up to his parents. And horny man could learn the error of his ways and become an upstanding member of society.
So what actually occurs? Well, some of the above happens and some doesn’t, but unfortunately for the people starring in this movie, it rarely happens in an interesting or entertaining way. It’s one of those films that has become far too commonplace today – the “guys sitting around talking about stuff the screenwriter thinks is profound or funny but really isn’t” movies.
Oh, and did I mention it has the smart foreign guy? Yeah, his name is Karo, an Armenian with amusingly accented English who shows up to fix some shoes for John and to teach him profound lessons about love. Somewhere, Michael Myers dreams about writing a movie parodying this character and calling him some horribly unamusing name, like Foreign Accento, or perhaps Wisely Armenian.
What’s painful about this movie is that there are elements that really could work. A movie about any two of the roommates, with time to care about their plight or perhaps at least get invested in it, might make for a good film. But instead, I felt sort of shoved around as the plot mechanics tried to resolve four plots in an upbeat manner for characters who didn’t really earn that much of an upbeat ending.
In the end, that’s the biggest problem: only one of these guys gets the slap in the face he deserves, and learns from it. The rest of them, well, they just get what the plot dictates they deserve, and who wants to watch that?