Saturday, October 4, 2014

In THURSDAY'S SPEAKER, Gary Hebert offers up a pretty good idea that misfires badly

The tale of a fellow finding the strength to own up to himself and his faults (alcoholism is just one of these), THURSDAY'S SPEAKER has a decent idea for a movie that is unfortu-nately brought to tired life by its writer/director/ editor, Gary Hebert -- who has bitten off a good deal more than he can chew and consequently delivers a non-starter that wastes the talents of some good actors. That the film won a few awards on the third-tier film-festival circuit only brings home the fact that too many movies are being made these days, and are then shown at some unnecessary festivals.

Still, how are budding filmmakers supposed to learn their craft except by trying and doing? So we can't hold this against Mr. Hebert, shown at left, who clearly did his best on this, his first full-length film. As unbelievable as are some of the goings-on, the characters, as well as the actors playing them, do their best to build up enough good will to carry the viewer along to the foregone, feel-good conclusion. What went wrong here? A lot. But primarily, I believe it is the so-so writing and downright poor editing that sink the endeavor. Hebert seems to have little feel for timing and pacing, and so his movie simply stalls far too often.

As you watch, you want to shout, "Pick up the pace, please!" Also, you want to send the script back for rewrites. The story is all about an aging responsibility-shirker named Rodrigo (Del Zamora, above), whom we first see addressing, and quite well, an AA Meeting. He's clearly a very good speaker. In the next scene, we see him take a drink or two and quickly realize what a scam artist he is.

His job -- selling poor-quality automobiles in a used car lot -- is a scam of another kind. And before long we see yet another, in the form of a younger woman, April (Ashley Ledbetter, above) who looks up Rodrigo's name in the phone book and reconnects with the guy. She has just relocated, with a high-school age son in tow, and she's applying for a job as pole-dancer in a strip club. The connection between April and Rodrigo is eventually established, but it oughtn't to come as too big a shock (it certainly doesn't to her son, Sam, played nicely by Andrew Shea, below).

As is often the case with first films, coincidence is rife and believability less so. Things happen because they need to in order to bring home Hebert's bacon. And regaling us with Rodrigo's constant lying, the movie's biggest stretch is asking us to believe that this guy could even remotely turn into what he needs to become by the movie's finale.

Job loss, arrest, first love and possible school expulsion (for the son), an intervention, and lots more take place before The End shows up. Of course, we'd like to buy it all, given as so many of us are partial to happy endings. And, as I say, the actors do provide some residual good will. Thankfully, the film comes in at just under an hour and a half, though getting there often feels longer. So it's your call. 

Where can you view Thursday's Speaker (a good title!)? This is the kind of movie made for the Netflix streaming stable, where you can view it on the cheap and then stick with it or not. But right now, from what I can tell, it is only available for sale on DVD for $13. Click here for more information. If the film ever becomes available for rental, or on a streaming outlet, and I learn of this, I'll update my post.

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