Before Sunset (Stories)

One last night to see this one-night-in-L.A. romp at SXSW.

From Sunset Stories' lovely animated title sequence by Giles Timms
From Sunset Stories' lovely animated title sequence by Giles Timms (by www.gilestimms.com)

Tonight is the last night to catch Silas Howard and Ernesto M. Foronda's Sunset Stories, an ensemble-character-driven one-night-in-L.A. romp in the vein of (NYC-) treks like Afterhours and Desperately Seeking Susan.

The Gay Place says: Do not miss.

Wed., Mar. 14, 9:30pm at the Canon Screening Room (badges, film passes, and tickets at the box office).

It's a gem of a festival sleeper, this, packed with great curation: from the actors – the wonderful leads Monique Curnen and Sung Kang and a cast of familiar faces (see below) , to the soundtrack (a gorgeous unreleased track by Sia, as well as delicious nuggets from Girl in a Coma, Zoë Lewis, Imperial Teen, and more), to the director of photography (Austin's PJ Raval), to the animator (the brilliant Giles Timms), to the poster artist (Austin's Yen Tan) and a mission to cast outside the dominant paradigms and portray those of us characters who do not fit within the strictures of Hollywood expectations as the real people with real lives we are.

This big-hearted comedy follows the Family Circus-style pursuit of a lost ice cooler loaded with human tissue that nurse May (Curnen) has fetched from (her old home) L.A. to bring back to the kids in the hospital ward in Boston where she now works. The audience follows both May and the cooler as it makes its way from taco truck to dumpster to … well, let's not give too much away. The trigger for May misplacing the precious cargo is a chance meeting at a hotel bar with her ex-boyfriend, JP, who has traded in his indie rock cred and dreams to make money as a wedding singer. She left him, so he joins the quest for more than just the cooler.

After last night's full-up screening at the Violet Crown, I leaned on a cold cement post and had a few words with director Ernesto mostly about how he and I both know Silas from the storied Tribe 8 days but also about this very facet of the film: It's fierce portrayal of, well in this case, an Hispanic female, whose ex is an Asian male, who consorts with the regular cast and crew of Hollywood castabouts that so riddle the California coastline, yet somehow, the straight white dudes in charge still manage to marginalize – either as sidekicks or quirky superhero exaggerated stereotypes. "Yeah, pretty much, we were like, 'We're going to create exactly the film you don't want us to create.'"

What? Where people are just normal people? With the same hopes and dreams and anxieties as their Hollywood counterparts?

Leads Curnen (CSI, Lie to Me, the Unusuals, Fast & Furious) and Kang (Fast Five, Live Free or Die Hard, Fast & Furious) are no strangers to avid TV and movie watchers and cop show and action movie aficionados. Their roles hold up – way beyond admirably: their chemistry is palpable and strained, just like any good pair of exes – amidst a bunch of scene-stealing bit parters.

The rest of the ensemble in this grin-inducing junket share similar ready-for-primetime-but-not-exactly status. Cameos from Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons, 60s/70s perennial babe and once Catwoman, Lee Meriwether, that dude from Lost Harold Perrineau, the consummate growly dyke from Legally Blonde, Meredith Scott Lynn (sorry for my own internal homo stereotyping, but she's soooooo damn good at it), and one particular Mr. Six Degrees himself pepper the proceedings and make for a great who's who game after the film.

Suffice to say, Silas and Ernesto have been kicking around the Hollywood periphery and indie kingdom long enough (the batter part of this last decade) to consider most of whom we've mentioned friends, so the film also has a very "family" feel to it.

The real treat, however comes in the form of a heart-tugging turn by Justin Vivian Bond, and I don't want to say to much, lest I give it away, because really, you shouldn't even be reading this right now. You should be arranging to get your ticket if you do not already have one.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Film, South by Southwest, Silas Howard, Ernesto M. Foronda, Sunset Stories

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