Tinseltown. The Dream Factory. The City of Infinite Waiters. Hollywood has almost as many nicknames as clichés. Yet, for all its glitz and glamour, for all its bright lights, red carpets and surgically altered celebrities, Hollywood is also a city of hungry, desperate wannabes, has-beens and never-will-be’s. These are the seedy characters who inhabit Hollywood’s seamier side…and who are at the heart of director Duane Whitaker’s gritty black comedy “Together and Alone.”
Sort of a poor man’s “The Player,” the film follows several storylines that more or less intersect by film’s end. If there is a nexus to the film, it would have to be Buffy (Mariah O’Brian), a Goth-lite waitress who works at the diner where many of the characters cross paths. It’s Buffy who coolly tries to explain the male fascination with threesomes to Gene (Thomas Draper) and his fiancée Laura (Stacie Randall). This is after Gene, an up and coming young director, has an intense meeting with Roscoe (Joe Unger), a hard-bitten, past-his-prime actor on the edge of a nervous breakdown, while Laura has just escaped from the sweaty clutches of her acting seminar instructor Blaine (Joe Estevez).
Buffy also interacts with Chad (Tom DeNolf), a screenwriter who’s furiously scribbling away in the diner. She eventually gives him her phone number, probably because they’re both overly fond of the color black.
There are a couple of other threads that don’t seem to connect with those mentioned above, unless I just plain missed it. One of these concerns Billy, (Casey Siemaszko), a struggling musician who chooses having sex over making the sound check one time too many for his lame band, and now must face the consequences. The other stand-alone subplot introduces us to what may or may not turn into a romance between Janet (Harri James), an aspiring stand-up comedienne who’s just not funny, and Rusty (John Bishop), a mellow, melancholy singer-songwriter who performs the film’s title song.
So let’s see here. We’ve got a struggling screenwriter, a naive director, a has-been actor, a pathetic stand-up comic, a sexy actress and a casting couch, a waitress in a diner and a strip-joint. In other words, it’s a sort of who’s who smorgasbord of the real Hollywood on any given day or night.
The weird thing is this all hangs together somehow. For as clichéd as all this must sound, Whitaker somehow keeps these folks from coming across like cardboard cutouts. Maybe the film’s grainy B&W look provides some gravitas, or perhaps the film’s self-deprecating gallows humor makes it ring sad but true. Whatever it is, the viewer will identify with these people almost in spite of themselves.
What’s perhaps most astounding about “Together and Alone,” however, is that it’s a Troma film, or at least one that they’re distributing. I mean, this is about as far away from Toxie, Sgt. Kabukiman and Killer Condoms as they come.
Or is it? Because rather than inhabiting the sexy, power-lunch world of “The Player,” these people really are “Living in Oblivion,” and they know it. Which is exactly what makes the moody “Together & Alone” such a compelling antidote to the Hollywood myth.
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