When Is Tomorrow
2007, NR, 77 min. Directed by Kevin Ford. Starring Kevin Ford, Eddie Steeples, Angela Bettis, C. Robert Cargill, Travis Nevels.
REVIEWED By Josh Rosenblatt, Fri., May 9, 2008
As the saying goes, in the movies as in life, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (or at least the surest way to a big opening weekend at the box office), but I’m willing to go out on a limb and bet that When Is Tomorrow will be the only film this year to climax with a hallucinogen-fueled backyard-party sword fight. Shot in Austin on a tiny budget, When Is Tomorrow is a curious movie: purposefully disheveled and expertly ramshackle, as if its filmmakers decided to celebrate their monetary limitations rather than fight them – a bold move artistically and a clever one dramatically. What better way, after all, to tell the story of two best friends (one purposeful, the other disheveled) maturing at dramatically different speeds and moving in drastically different directions? First there’s Jake (Ford, who also directed, produced, edited, and co-wrote), a character who could easily have been plucked from the cast of another independent film set in Austin, Richard Linklater’s Slacker: Without a penny to his name, or any apparent ambition to earn one, he gets by on an eccentric mixture of self-delusion, frantic energy, and the generosity of others. Then there’s Ron (co-writer Steeples, who plays Crabman on TV’s My Name Is Earl), a successful New York poet whom Jake hasn’t seen in five years but who comes to Austin to be the best man at his wedding. The problem is, that during those five years, Ron (who now goes by the nom de plume Duke Eloquent) has not only become successful; he’s become a self-righteous zealot spreading the gospel of personal evolution and strength, a gospel Jake is barely even familiar with. (The one Eloquent poem we’re treated to may as well be a direct shot at his former buddy: “How are you going to allow anchor friends to hold you down like chained ankles on battlegrounds when we’re grown now?” Ouch.) Ford and Steeples have been acting together for years, and their familiar back-and-forth is the heart of When Is Tomorrow. Like a hyperactive Oscar Madison and a bohemian Felix Unger, Jake and Ron go at each other in extended verbal jousts that are dripping with passive aggression and stored-up bitterness, and that feel like they were plucked out of the real lives of real friends. It’s a story as old as time itself, warmly and idiosyncratically told: Boy befriends boy, boy outgrows boy, boy loses to boy at pingpong, boy gets revenge on boy by publishing a collection of angry haiku. (Opens Saturday. Alamo Ritz: Saturday-Sunday with Ford, Steeples, and Bettis in attendance and a half-hour of comedy warm-up from Steeples on Saturday; Alamo South: Monday-Thursday. For more, see "512 + 1.")