Monday, February 1, 2010

Agustin's FALLING AWAKE offers life, death and music in the Bronx via IFC On-Demand

Get past the somewhat-too-
cutesy title of FALLING AWAKE and you'll encoun-
ter a number of positive things: lead actors Andrew Cisneros & Jenna Dewan, whose talent may nearly approach  the level of their knockout gor-
geous looks; a cast of smart supporting players including Nestor Serrano, Julie Carmen and Nicholas Gonzalez; and some pleasant music. The downside? Plotting that is hackneyed as hell, relying far too much on coincidence, convenience and whatever works.

The story involves a young and handsome street musician from the Bronx who meets and falls for a Manhattan girl who's above him in class, finances, and maybe smarts.  None of this really matters, of course, because love conquers all, including storyline and intelligence. What saves the movie -- barely -- is Cisneros' performance.  The young actor (this marks his first full-length film) also composed some of the music and sings it quite well: His session at an open-mic performance at a local club is terrific. For once, you can believe that the audience is bowled over. 

Unfortunately we need to believe a lot more, but here the movie lets us down.  Directed and co-written (with with Doug Klozzner and Michael Baez) by a fellow named Agustin (shown at left),  it gives our hero a half-assed family life that manages to be both under-conceived and repetitive, a damning combination which even the good cast cannot rise above. Too much happenstance sinks the film.  One sudden downpour that helps protect our hero from the bad guys is OK; a second one is too much. ("Boy, it rains a lot in the Bronx," one of my compatriots cracked, as the press crowd existed the screening.)

The film's beginning possesses a nice, off-the-cuff quality and some charm, but as it moves along, cliches begin to pile up, with a little too much angst, fevered emotions and wall-punching unleashed to diminishing effect.  There is also no need to ramp up the ending of the film to the point at which it seems simply fake.  Keep it real, someone might have helpfully suggested, midway along.

We'll certainly be hearing from newcomer Cisneros (above, right) again soon, as well as from Ms Dewan (above, left), who has already racked up a solid resume of film and TV appearances.   

Falling Awake will open this Friday, February 5, in Manhattan at the IFC Center, but meanwhile, you can catch it via IFC On-Demand from most local cable suppliers.

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