While Sporadic Sporkitudes isn't a strictly film-centered blog (I tend to write about whatever pops into my head at the moment, be it amateur plumbing, karaoke, or Kobe Bryant-induced vomit), I am indeed obsessed with movies and enjoy spouting the occasional review of a film that strikes my fancy (see my Underrated Classics series: She-Devil, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, While You Were Sleeping). A few days ago, I got my hot little hands on a screener of the independent drama, "Not Since You." It has been described as "The Big Chill for the 21st century." I'd say this is a fairly accurate comparison (it's thankfully less depressing but also has a less phenomenal soundtrack.) I will now attempt to give a fair, objective review that stays (mostly) on topic.
The film focuses on an ensemble cast of characters who reunite at a wedding in Georgia nearly a decade following their 2001 graduation from NYU. Friendships are rekindled, relationships are formed and tested, old scores are settled and old scars are healed. The opening credits feature a montage of photos establishing characters and relationships in days gone by. The final shot is of the entire group of friends gathered in front of the former Manhattan skyline. Not only did these people experience the changes and inevitable drifting that accompanies moving on, but their lives were forever altered after September 11th. (I got a chilling sensation seeing this photo because I also have pictures of me on top of the World Trade Center in June of 2001.)
Upon an initial glance at the cast list, I immediately recognized Sara Rue from the short-lived but outstanding show Popular (as well the best line in Can't Hardly Wait, "SHEEP! You...are all...sheep. Baaa."). Another familiar face was Christian Kane, who I just saw in Angel this morning (What are the odds?). And while I didn't remember the name, I was instantly stoked to see Elden Henson, formerly the Bash Brother Fulton Reed from the Mighty Ducks (HECK YES!).
You go Fulton!
Slowly the characters, now a little older and marginally wiser, arrive on the breathtakingly beautiful Georgian estate to prepare for the wedding of Ashley and Daniel (?). I'm not quite sure of the groom's name because the film makes the interesting choice of essentially ignoring the couple getting married. It would have been nice to get to know their backstory, but since we already know how they end up, the narratives rely on the wedding party themselves. After all, that's where the drama usually stems from in the weddings I've been to. Something about the combination of booze, formal wear, and desperation brings out the worst in people.
Sam (Desmond Harrington)
The primary storyline features Sam, a dreamy but wounded lone wolf who remarkably resembles Smith Jared from Sex and the City, who still pines for his ex-girlfriend Amy, who is now married to Ryan (Christian Kane with an unfortunate-looking long haircut. Why do guys think that looks good?) What Sam lacks in personality, he makes up for in smoldering sexual tension with Amy as they get their groove on at the reception. That white boy has some moves! Their chemistry is so palpable that Ryan, nice but ultimately bland, cuts in during an awesome display of competitive male posturing. Who doesn't love that? But other than the ridiculously good casting of compatible actors, this narrative is somewhat lackluster and predictable until the very end. I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome, but I'll spare you the spoiler.
A damn good actor, but why the hair?
It does you no favors. Veto.
The other prominent love triangle involving Victoria, Howard and Billy, was a bit more interesting. Howard and Billy had been best friends until Victoria left Howard for Billy. Years had gone by since the two had spoken. The wedding trapped them all in the same place and provided ample booze to fuel the ensuing fireworks. Howard and Billy end up brawling on the dance floor. Later, Billy tries to apologize and asks Howard to be the best man at his own wedding. Howard realizes that he was holding the grudge for so long because he felt betrayed, not because he was really in love with Victoria. The dynamic between these two former best friends was that they fell out over a girl, who wasn't really worth it. As Victoria herself claims (in the world's biggest cliche), "you're in love with the idea of me." But it's true. Once Howard realizes that, he and Billy instantly fall back into their friendship as if no time passed at all.
I'll say it, I think Sara Rue looked better before.
But she's adorable regardless.
The story I was most intrigued by was the burgeoning relationship of the adorably shlubby alcoholic, Joey (Elden Henson/Fulton Reed) and the chipper Southern belle Sarah (Sara Rue, who looks gorgeous in the film, but I honestly think she was more beautiful with a little more meat on her bones). We find out from the start that Sarah has been waiting for marriage to have sex, but given the right guy, she'd "totally be inclined to expedite her schedule," (great line, by the way). Joey has shut himself off from the world after arriving late to work on September 11th only to watch his office come crashing down. The two of them have a very sweet, somewhat awkward romance. Both are undeniably likable and unpretentious. Their unconventional relationship was a breath of fresh air.
Undoubtedly the best scene was when they play Redneck Golf, essentially skeet shooting with ill-fated clay pigeons and over-sized rifles. The activity gives the film a greater sense of identity, taking place in the South and embracing its heritage. Not to mention, it provides an excellent physical representation of sexual tension, jealousy, and anger. Nothing is more cathartic than shooting a gun for the frustrated and suspicious Ryan. Sarah and Joey bond when Sarah teaches him how to aim. Billy and Howard have one more confrontation during this sequence and the rifles do a great job of ratcheting up the stakes. A gun goes off by accident, startling the entire party and increasing everyone's anxiety.
The loose ends are wrapped up during a poignant campfire scene in which most everyone has reconciled and accepted that though they have changed, their friendship has not (aww!). The bride and groom (in a rare appearance) give everyone a copy of the Manhattan skyline photo in rememberence of the last time they were all together. The next day before once again going their separate ways, they take a new picture to commemorate the eventful weekend.
Awww once more!
Overall, I enjoyed "Not Since You" immensely. The scenery was gorgeous, as was the score. There were memorable characters and unforgettable moments. It was beautifully shot, and wonderfully acted. And while there were some narratives that were a bit predictable at times, I firmly believe that you don't have to re-invent the wheel as long as the wheel you make is a good one. I hope to see more from Sara Rue who is criminally under-appreciated, as were many of the actors who have yet to see their big break. "Not Since You" is available on Netflix, so I'd recommend it for a lazy Sunday afternoon when you're feeling nostalgic about your own college friends and wondering what they're up to.