Friday, January 9, 2015

A play becomes a movie as Kristjan Thor/Ashlin Halfnight's DIVING NORMAL hits Arena Cinema

I don't think you'd guess that DIVING NORMAL -- the new film directed by Kristjan Thor with a screenplay from Ashlin Halflight -- began life as a legitimate theater piece, so opened up and out is the finished movie, which now takes place inside, outside, and all around the town. The film does not seem stagebound in the least. However, given what we see and hear from this screenplay, I am not certain that the original theater piece was all that good. Two of the three lead performances go some distance in making the film watchable, despite a story and screenplay that seems heavily manufactured (and not all that believable, in any case) in order to reach, by hook or by crook, its mostly feel-good conclusion.

Co-producers Scotty Crowe (above, right) and Philipp Karner (above, left) also co-star as respective best friends, Gordon and Fulton, who end up attracted to the same beautiful girl, Dana (Susie Abromeit, below). The difference between them is that Gordon appears to have something like Asperger's Syndrome (he has a lot of trouble being "normal"), while Fulton is an A-1 player (this guy's trouble has to do with failing to be forthright where women are concerned). How and why Gordon and Fulton ever became such good friends would seem to contradict reality as most of us know it.

There is also, initially, what appears to be a physical attraction to Fulton on the part of Gordon, but this is not developed much past the need for maybe just friendship. Instead we get reams of angst and a backstory for poor Dana that could choke the proverbial horse.

When you have a group this problemed, it can be tiring, not to mention the near-constant need to put into play one's suspension of disbelief, as one of another of our threesome does something dumb once again. Along the way we get yet another of those ridiculous proposals/declarations of love in a public place -- this time a restaurant -- along with a couple of odd and violent scenes, to the point where we begin rolling our eyes.

Which is too bad, since the three leads are attractive and talented, particularly Mr. Crowe and Ms Abromeit. The former excels at appearing just a little short of normal while maintaining our empathy and understanding; the latter is just beautiful and real enough to make us wish her character were not so weighted down with every problem imaginable. Mr. Karner, stuck with the shallow cad role, does what he can.

Still, I was moved by the movie's ending, even if I didn't much believe anything that had come before. Director Thor, shown at right, does a decent job of  bringing the whole thing together and pacing it to ensure our continued interest. Diving Normal (the title has to do with Gordon's diving lessons at the local swimming pool) -- from Devolver Films and running 92 minutes -- opens this Saturday, January 10, for a week-long run in Los Angeles at the Arena Cinema in Hollywood. On January 13 it hits cable VOD, and on January 27 digital VOD. 

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