Review: X’s and O’s

X’s and O’s (2007)
Clayne Crawford, Judy Marte, Warren Christie, Sarah Wright, John Wynn, Lynn Chen.  Written and directed by Kedar Korte.

exesI think one of the reasons I responded so positively to Ride Along 2 is that I’d seen so many indie films immediately before it that big-budget lighting, sound, editing, and cinematography, were a shock to my system.  I’d forgotten how good a movie could look and sound.  Even with mediocre content, the packaging was so nice, I was pleased just to experience it with likable actors.  I wouldn’t say that Kevin Hart is necessarily a better actor than anyone in X’s and O’s or its ilk, but I imagine the actors in the Hollywood film had more rehearsal time and as many takes as needed to satisfy the director’s vision.

This is not to say that X’s and O’s is technically bad, but boy, is it noticeably indie.

andSimon is crazy about Jane, but Jane has him friend-zoned so completely that when they say good night after dinner and drinks, she embraces him, kisses him right next to his mouth, and licks him a few times before they separate.  His roomie Lorenzo doesn’t have this problem: he’s waking up next to a different woman every morning, although it seems the one he really wants is an ex who wants nothing to do with him.  Meanwhile, one of their friends has a girlfriend but treats her like property while driving everyone crazy with exaggerated, faux hip-hop speech and mannerisms.

ohsSimon has friend-zoned a fellow graduate student named Trese, who looks a lot like young Jennifer Lopez, which is interesting because Simon looks like young Ray Liotta.  Trese is hung up on Simon, but she’s got a few issues of her own, mostly in the way men treat women in romantic relationships.

This is a lot of characters to juggle, and the script mostly handles it well.  The problem with this film is that its semi-interesting characters don’t find enough interesting stuff to talk about or do, then they turn out not to be interesting either, and not very likable.  Add an element that I find tiresome (slam poetry), and some strange stuff in a Christian dorm, and the whole thing is just kind of a dreary, annoying slog.  If my power had gone out before it was done, I’m not sure I would have cared, and the only thing that kept me mildly engaged is the prettiness of the actresses.

Unless you’re trying to do what I’m doing (seeing everything Lynn Chen is in), take a pass on this one.


Review: Tre (2006)

Tre (2006)
Daniel Cariaga, Kimberly-Rose Wolter, Erik McDowell.  Directed by Eric Byler.  Written by Byler and Wolter.

tSomewhere in the hills of California, Kakela spends her days writing a story.  She considers it her job, even though she’s never made money at it, and she doesn’t need an income.  She owns the house and property she shares with her boyfriend Gabe, who spends his days training horses and their riders.    He does need an income, as he reminds Kakela once or twice.  They’re hosting a friend going through a difficult time in her marriage, and in the film’s first scene, their pad is crashed by Tre, a longtime friend of Gabe’s, who’s been tossed out by either his girlfriend or his parents (I can’t remember which, but I remember the character well enough to know it could be either).

rTre is a first-class jerk, one of those guys who uses honesty as an excuse not to have any tact.  He’ll say something incredibly hurtful with no apologies, and then later say something deeply compassionate, and because he’s so honest about the hurtful things, his friends assume he’s being sincere about the kind things.  Is he?  This is Tre‘s mystery, and it had the potential to be fascinating.  Instead, it’s tiresome, as I imagine Tre is tiresome for anyone unfortunate enough to know him.  Friendships are complicated things, and I would never tell people when they have to stop giving themselves to a person they care about, but I’m just a viewer of a film by a director whose Charlotte Sometimes I like and have great respect for.  I have no relationship with Tre beyond the ninety minutes this film requires, and thank goodness, because even that is more than I wanted to give him.

eThe first half of the film is interesting, as the characters kind of set up their corners and give us little tastes of how they interact with one another, in different combinations and all together.  As the characters take us (and each other) a little deeper, it remains interesting, but despite feeling sympathy for the characters, I can’t buy Tre’s actions or words in the final act.  Sometimes a jerk, no matter what he might have been through or what he’s feeling, is just a jerk, and there’s very little here to make me feel otherwise.

As with Charlotte Sometimes, Director Eric Byler doesn’t spell everything out, which I appreciate, but where he leaves us at film’s end is unsatisfying.  I like what he tried to do; I just don’t like what he managed to do.