The Austin Chronicle

Day at the Beach

Rated R, 92 min. Directed by Nick Veronis. Starring Nick Veronis, Patrick Fitzgerald, Neal Jones, Catherine Kellner, Jane Adams, Joe Ragno, Martin Shakar.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., June 26, 1998

There's no escape quite like a weekend getaway in the Hamptons. Especially when you're on the run from an accidental murder and a leery mafioso. Veronis' first feature is a strange amalgam of New York City deadpan schtick and edgy drama that never quite gels but isn't nearly as grating as the dark and dingy camerawork might make you think. It's part The Daytrippers and part Weekend at Bernie's, with more than a little indie chutzpah thrown in for good measure. Aspiring filmmaker Jimmy (Veronis) and his friends John (Fitzgerald) and Chuck (Jones) find their lives turned upside down when over-zealous actor John tosses a loaded briefcase over a bridge and kills a passing fisherman. Wracked with guilt, he's ready to turn himself over to the cops but instead embarks on a semi-wild night of drinking with the boys. At sunrise, on a whim, the three pack into a car -- taking John's wife Marie (Adams) and their young son, as well as Jimmy's new crush Amy (Kellner), who just happens to be the boss' daughter (the trio work at a rundown Little Italy ravioli factory, which just happens to be a front for the mob) -- and head out to the Hamptons to do some serious soul-searching. Once there, Jimmy stumbles on the summer home of the ravioli kingpin, and, well, trouble naturally ensues. Shot in the traditional NYC grit-o-vision, Veronis manages to keep things light and breezy until about a third of the way through, when the film takes a turn into the netherworld of deer-laden dream imagery and mano-a-mano emotional meltdown. Never quite sure whether it's a comedy, drama, or some post-NYU hybrid, Day at the Beach's reach frequently exceeds its grasp. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, the film is made up of a dozen or so smaller pieces, each of which work well on their own but never quite gel together. Whether it's Fitzgerald's deft touch as family man John, or the ever-on-the-make Chuck finally getting some play, Day at the Beach (which previously screened in Austin during the 1997 SXSW Film Festival) is full of good stuff that goes nowhere. The final confrontation (of sorts) with mob boss Antonio Gintolini (Ragno) at his dune-shrouded estate is a deus ex machina of the worst sort, but somehow Veronis manages to pull it off. Like its befuddled characters, Veronis' film is really neither here nor there, a mildly engaging look into the lives of a trio of schlemiels that frankly wouldn't elicit much interest even on their best days.

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