By Daniel Wible | January 7, 2004

“This here’s America! A place where we can dream,” exclaims one Mr. Arthur Washington (Timothy Rogers), a homeless man with a dream. His dream: to visit the “outer spaces”, where they got them “cats in those suits, pretty planets, and all those stars!” Arthur’s got just one problem though: no dough. And no dough means no hitching a ride with some rocketship. No dough also means Arthur needs to hit up a bank for a loan. So, Arthur pushes along his shopping cart stocked with all his earthly possessions and heads for the nearest financial institution, stopping only occasionally to beg for handouts, pick food out of the trash, and drink from a public fountain. When Arthur is finally granted a meeting with a bank clerk named Sally (Karen Strassman), he risks getting his a*s immediately kicked back out on the street when he reveals his wish to get on the next bus to the moon. But Sally doesn’t just kick him right out because she kind of relates. Kind of, since Sally doesn’t particularly like her job and always dreamed of becoming a world-famous flutist. It is America, after all.

“Rocketship Dreams” has seemingly very little to say other than that in America it’s okay to dream and that crackpot homeless men have every right to ask for ridiculous sums of money to fly to outer space. Though of course, also in America, the banks have every right to deny said homeless men of their request and kindly usher them back on their merry little way, thank you. So then what’s the point writer/director Daniel Berenholz is trying to make here? Surely we’re not meant to take Arthur seriously in his quest for the stars, are we? No, we’re probably meant to empathize with him the way Sally eventually (and reluctantly) does. After all, we all have dreams of bigger and better things, don’t we? Perhaps what Berenholz is really saying though is that he who has nothing has the grandest dreams of all, while he (or she) who conceivably has “everything” (job, family, home) still has dreams, albeit somewhat more grounded ones, like playing the flute. Arthur may never (okay, will never) get to see them stars, but at least he’s still trying. Sally meanwhile, is working at a bank.

Berenholz’s is certainly a quaint notion, if not one ultimately rendered a little too quaint in such a short format. The stench of a lurking message is somehow much worse when it’s condensed into only 10 minutes. Give me character depth or plot and I might just swallow your life lesson. Hell, just give me some air! I’m certain though, if expanded, “Rocketship Dreams” could make for a compelling film. As Arthur and Sally, both Timothy Rogers and Karen Strassman are superb in their brief roles. They both do so much with so little. I would be very interested to see where Arthur goes in his quest for interstellar freedom and to what affect his romantic (maybe insane) ramblings had on Sally. I can envision Sally as the film’s central and most intriguing character, with Arthur dropping by from time to time to offer sage advice/comic relief. Sally might even reward her newfound friend and inspiration with a trip to Disneyland, where they would ride Space Mountain or something. As it stands “Rocketship Dreams” is a good beginning, but not much of a middle and end.

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