Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tao Ruspoli's FIX opens in New York -- and Shawn Andrews hits the big time

If FIX, the snazzy and relatively new (it’s been kicking around the fest circuit for a year or so) independent movie by Tao Ruspoli (shown just below) reminds you of the Doug Liman film Go (Liman’s best by my standard), I wouldn’t be surprised if this was not intentional, maybe even some kind of homage. Ruspoli’s tale brings together a disparate group of characters (some of these quite disreputable), just as did Liman’s, but connects them in a much more straightforward manner. There’s a whole lot of traveling here, too, in and around the L.A. area by the three principals: a pair of documentary filmmakers played by Ruspoli and Olivia Wilde (shown below, right: she and Ruspoli are a twosome, or so this week’s New York magazine tells us) and the former's brother Leo, played by the real -- and unforgettable -- star of the movie, an actor named Shawn Andrews, below, left.

This extremely unwieldy brother is an evidently well-connected drug pusher and user who is about to face a long prison term unless he can be placed in a rehab center by 8 pm the evening of the day that Fix begins. Oh – and did I mention that a several-thousand dollar fee for this rehab center must be raised before our guy can be admitted? There’s the setup, and it’s a doozy, especially given the fact that brother Leo is high as a kite already and determined to somehow stay that way, while evading his fate.

Fix whisks us around Los Angeles, into its swanky, as well as its nether regions (above), and everywhere we go we meet weird, funny, scary people, who surprise, amuse and even occasionally move us during the increasingly bizarre turn of events. On hand in the delicious supporting cast are Megalyn Echikunwoke, Dedee Pfeiffer, Rodney Eastman and others -- all creating sharp, full characters with little screen time. If you took this film at all seriously -- which I admit that, other than its being an exceedingly clever piece of movie-making, I did not – you might say that it laid bare the soul of L.A., if not America: sleazy, lazy, addicted and corrupt. But, nah, it’s just a movie, and a fun one at that. Its style is fast, raucous and all over the place, yet it works quite well. There’s a discipline necessary in properly showing us characters and events as undisciplined as those we see here. No less than the oft-undisciplined Oliver Stone is quoted in a blurb praising the movie (it's the first one on the poster, top) and it’s easy to understand why. Stone has never given us a movie as much fun or daring as this little 90-minute wonder, and certainly not on anything as close to its minuscule budget.

Back to that cast: When you’ve got a performance as bizarrely energetic and crazy as that given by Mr. Andrews, everyone else necessarily takes a back seat, particularly his two cohorts. Wilde looks beautiful, as usual, but Ruspoli is barely seen, holding a camera as he attempts to record as much as possible of what we are viewing (this is a kind of doc-within-a-doc). But that’s fine because the two filmmakers on screen must act as reasonably and reliably as possible to offset the craziness of their charge. For his part, Andrews is a revelation, alternately frightening, funny and nuts but always quite smart. And self-defeating. In the one scene sure to divide audiences, we go into a drug den (shown, above) and get a lecture on living that intends to turn topsy-turvy our own ideas on life and death, right and wrong. I didn’t quite buy it, but I admit to being very impressed with Ruspoli’s brave and unusual attempt to convince us.

In any case, I recommend you get your Fix soon, and on the big screen. See what you think, and feel free to add a comment below. The movie opens Friday at New York City’s Village East cinemas, and depending on how well it is received by audiences and critics, it may well open wider in the weeks to come. In any case, it is certain to appear eventually on DVD and/or on one of those “streaming” links.

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