Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Frank Whaley's lovely LIKE SUNDAY, LIKE RAIN offers chamber music for our ears, eyes and soul

Frank Whaley is probably better know as an actor than as a filmmaker (my favorite of his many roles is that of the memorable "kid" in the David Mamet/Danny DeVito sort-of-biopic Hoffa). After seeing this filmmaker's exquisite little chamber piece, LIKE SUNDAY, LIKE RAIN, however, it may be that, from this point on, you'll best remember him as one terrific movie-maker. (The film's title actually refers to the name of a particular piece of chamber music composed by one of its two main characters.)

Mr. Whaley, shown at right, has created -- with the help of his two leading performers -- a story so tender and kind (we really don't get much kindness from today's movies) that thoughtful audiences will find themselves hooked by these characters and their unusual situation. As Whaley initially presents them, his two protagonists seem cut from relatively typical cloth: the spoiled rich kid, Reggie, who's got just about everything, and the barely-making-it young woman, Eleanor, who is ending a relationship, which unfortunately also ends her employment.

But wait. There is so much more, particularly where that rich kid -- an immaculate and surprisingly believable performance from young Julian Shatkin -- is concerned. Rather than spill the beans, I'll leave you to discover the details on your own. Whaley makes them wonderfully specific and fascinating, while Shatkin embodies them with rare grace and charm.

The young woman employed to look after the boy is played by Leighton Meester (above, of Gossip Girl fame and the crummy crime film, By the Gun). Ms Meester is a revelation here, so perfectly attuned to each event and moment that she and her co-star create together a kind chamber music duet of acting moments that register as real, touching, funny and, well, just very special. By turns tentative then slowly growing stronger, Meester's character blossoms under Shatkin's tutelage, just as his does under hers.

The supporting cast includes only a few other characters: Reggie's narcissistic mom (Debra Messing, above, right, in fine, funny form), their housekeeper (Olga Merediz, above left), with Billie Joe Armstrong (below), who registers strongly as Eleanor's punk-ass boyfriend, and J. Smith Cameron (memorable, as always) as her not-so-hot mom.

Where the story goes is, perhaps, expected -- but how it arrives there and how strongly it may affect you are not. The climax is simply splendid -- rich and moving -- and Whaley knows just how long to make this last so that the characters are able to feel and acknowledge what they must. (The denouement is lovely, too.)

Like Sunday, Like Rain -- from Monterey Media and running a near-perfect 104 minutes -- is available now on DVD and via (some) digital outlets. I hope it makes its way onto Netflix streaming soon.

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