Monday, May 23, 2011

HELLO LONESOME: Adam Reid's dear and delicious little film tracks a trio of quirky couplings; plus a fun Q&A with filmmaker

Loneliness is not the easiest quality to capture on film, at least not without boring us by offering up the usual visual clichés of the figure, alone in a landscape, or within but separated somehow from the world around him/her. Loneliness when you're with other people is a harder thing to pinpoint, and one of the treats of the new film HELLO LONESOME is that its writer/ director Adam Reid manages this odd and tricky task very well.

Reid (shown at right) is the filmmaker who, a few years back, gave us the Academy-shortlisted live-action film While the Widow Is Away. He uses the two actors who starred in that 19-minute movie -- Lynn Cohen and Kamel Boutros -- along with several others to make up the fine, nine-actor ensemble that he and his casting director Brette Goldstein have collected. Casting is vital to a chamber piece such as this; one wrong call and you've broken the delicate chain. Fortunately, the players work beautifully together, bringing to life the stories Reid tells.

The first of these concerns a man (played by Harry Chase, above) who does voice-overs -- very successfully, from what we can surmise -- working out of his spacious home in the country. With a failed marriage and a daughter who isn't in touch, Harry enjoys a meager friendship with his delivery man (the very interesting Mr. Boutros, below) and the occasional one-night stand.

In another part of town, Ms Cohen (below, left) plays a somewhat sight-challenged widow still hurting from the demise of her longtime husband, who gets some surprising attention from her neighbor, played by James Urbaniak (below, right). This unusual pairing, which brings up the subject of intergenerational love, and perhaps even sex, is handled by Reid and his actors with such halting surprise and charm that we're ready for whatever comes.

In the third and most poignant of the tales, a young man (Nate Smith, below, top) looking for love, or whatever, goes online to discover another lonely soul (Sabrina Lloyd, below, bottom). The two connect -- oddly, I grant you -- but in a major way. The quirkiness here sometimes threatens to go over the top, but due to performances that stay real no matter what happens, the top is never reached, let alone breached.

The three stories and their characters weave in and out of the whole without ever connecting. And that's fine. We don't miss the connection because Reid's theme of loneliness, links and the forging of bonds is so strongly felt. (Much better, this, than one of those films in which "everything is connected" via the puppeteer pulling unbelievable strings from above.)

Hello Lonesome, delicate but grounded, knows what it's about. And so, I think, will you. This may take awhile to come clear, but while it does, you're in for some enjoyable performances. And when it does, you're hooked -- and then some.

The film (93 minutes long and distributed  by Bodega Studios, opens this Friday, May 27, at New York City's Cinema Village, with a DVD release in the offiing soon.


In the Q & A below, TrustMovies' Q's appear in boldface, while the A's of Adam Reid (pictured below, this time in director attire) are in standard type.

Where did you find Harry Chase and Kamel Boutros? Is that Chase’s real voice (and is that the major reason why you chose him for this role)?

Kamel Boutros is a very talented friend (opera singer and pianist) who I cast in my first film, a short titled While the Widow Is Away that also starred Lynn Cohen. I am consistently blown away by Kamel, he’s such a charac-ter in real life with a natural gift for com-edy, and I like to surprise audiences with his musical ability. When I started writing Hello Lonesome I knew that I wanted to work with him again.

Harry Chase is a real life voice-over artist and a very successful one, at that. I’ve been hearing Harry’s voice my whole life and didn’t really know it. (You may know him as the voice of Captain’s Morgan’s Rum “Got a little captain in ya?”, Disney on Broadway, CNN, Quizno’s and countless other things.) I wrote the role of Bill Soap as a composite of all the voice-over guys I’ve worked with making commercials. When it came time to cast the part, I knew I wanted the real pipes in the voice-over booth, and then the magic trick would be getting a great on-camera performance. This is Harry’s first on-screen role. I think he’s a truly gifted actor, we’ve just never seen his face. I have to give credit to our tenacious casting director Brette Goldstein for finding Harry for me. She sent me a list of VO guys to listen to and once I heard Harry’s voice, I had a big hunch he was our man. I went to Harry’s house to meet him for the first time and it was love at first sight. He’s actually become a dear friend.

Chase, in the lead, manages to fit into the whole ensemble somehow, while remaining just outside it – due to the bizarre quality he communicates (you can believe his daughter never calls him back). Was this part of the man himself, or did you have to coax the over-the-top behavior out of him?

Harry in real life is a force of nature. It doesn’t take much coaxing, in fact, there was more effort put into curbing his performance to match the emotional tone I was looking for. It’s worth noting that Harry is a dedicated husband and father, but in almost every other way, resembles his character completely. In some ways it’s like a documentary that way, there’s a lot of Harry being Harry.

As the film is dedicated to, I believe, your sister (we thought that as we watched the end of the end-credits, and your PR folk Susan and Linda confirmed it), this is probably the loveliest dedicated-to-my-sister movie since Bobby Harling’s Steel Magnolias. Can I get a little more personal than usual and ask if there was indeed such a young man who came into her life at the time and actually stuck by her? If so, are you still close with him?

Indeed, this story is very much based on my sister Lisa. Poor girl. She was in her 30’s and met a guy on JDate just before she found out she was sick, and he stuck by her. He was himself a big sports book betting kind of guy, and I was so struck by how they let everything ride and hoped for the best. I’ve had such mixed emotions about their relationship and making Hello Lonesome has been a powerful way to reflect on that for me. They married, and she passed away after that. I am so grateful that Lisa had that love in her life when she was sick. At the same time, I don’t think they had enough time to see what kind of a team they would become. It’s very bittersweet to say the least.

For me the scene in which he learns of his lover’s illness and makes that decision was quite something. I’ve known men who’ve gone both ways upon leaning this sort of thing, and just last year we had the mostly-stupid-but-could-have-been-a-lot-better Love and Other Drugs with a similar situation. You have an interesting way of taking odd bits and pieces and putting them together so that we believe what has happened – that’s sort of how the whole girl/boy relationship comes to fruition. But it works somehow. Your characters are quirky (sometimes quirky as hell) but grounded enough to make us believe in them. I think this is difficult to achieve, but you have done it. (Does this make sense to you?)

This makes perfect sense. Thank you so much for the compliment. I have to give a lot of credit to Sabrina Lloyd (above) and Nate Smith (below) for how they handled this very intense scene and somehow managed not to make it all-out melodrama. The dialogue in this scene was nearly word for word pulled from real life, and that can be very tricky to pull off.

As for the quirk-factor, I find most people to be quirky as hell, once you get to know them. These characters are all very real to me. The actors I cast were chosen, or had the roles written for them, because they ARE these people they are playing in some real way. The situations were written, that’s the fiction, but the idiosyncratic detail they fill the scenes with comes from them. There’s no keeping Lynn Cohen or Harry Chase from being quirky once you let them off the leash. They’re just naturally funny people with some truly goofy aspects to their personality.

You’ve also done a fine job of drawing good performance from your very grab-bag cast – so diverse – not to mention the use of seasoned performers with newcomers. Did you find a huge difference in how you dealt with these two groups: the veterans and the newcomers?

Oddly enough, I didn’t treat any of the actors differently. My very favorite actors to work with are either A) Total Professionals with years of experience on camera or B) Non-actors with no experience. I suppose I struggle with struggling actors. They “need” too much, try too hard, and I have a tougher time trying to get them relaxed on camera. I love mixing them together, the pro’s and newbies. The pros have learned how to let go, and the newcomers I am drawn to have that same quality.

Your theme of loneliness is handled in an interesting manner. It seems as if there is really no cure for it, save the use of the “other” and of yourself, even as you understand that this will not really make it go away -- because the other person can only go so far in acting as a salve. The individual has to come to terms with it him/herself. Would you agree, or am I just pushing my own theory onto your film. (We critics LOVE to do that!)

You’re not that far off at all. I was in a lonely funk when I was writing Hello Lonesome and I think that had a big impact on my perspective and the final film. I’ve since met the love of my life, and I am happy to report that perspective has shifted considerably. {Editors note: Click the link and watch the above video; it's f-ing wonderful!}

All three stories in Hello Lonesome feature imperfect pairings that complete each other in unexpected ways. These are desperate people. Which sounds depressing, but there’s some joy in that because standards are thrown out the window and we are able to open ourselves to connections we would have never considered otherwise. So, while I don’t think that the condition of loneliness is permanent at all, I do believe in the magic and goodwill that that loneliness can create in a vacuum. Get two REALLY lonely people together and then stand back and watch what happens. They are willing to change for each other. Most people want everything to be perfect all the time. Truly lonely souls don’t care, they’re just happy to have company.

For you, what was the most difficult part about making this movie? The easiest?

Hello Lonesome was made for about fifty thousand dollars and shot over fifteen days. While anything but easy, and taking years to complete, this film was very do-able on this scale. We had a crew of about five on set, and then of course dozens of talented people who helped put it together afterward. I learned so much, wearing multiple hats. To anyone who wants to make a movie this way I highly recommend it.

The most difficult part was convincing Lynn Cohen that she could drive. She told me she was a good driver when I was writing the script and I believed her. She can’t, and she doesn’t. The shots of her driving are all faked in a variety of ways. At one point we shot her in the parking lot of a TGI Friday’s at night, a fan in a shopping cart blowing her gray hair and a 100 watt light simulating the oncoming traffic. Lynn was a terrible, terrible driver but you’d never know it watching the film. Oddly, I’m very proud of this.

According to the IMDB, this is your first full-length film. How did you come to do the Gilbert Gottfried video – Comedy Central, I would guess?

The DIRTY JOKES concert performance was a fluke and not related to Comedy Central actually. He’s a friend of a friend and I was excited to put that together with him. That DVD is the filthiest thing in the world, just FILTHY, and if you have the stomach for it, side-achingly funny. That’s all Gilbert. He didn’t want to spend much (typical) and I was willing to shoot and edit the show for very little which worked out great for both of us.

How can I see While the Widow is Away?

You can find While the Widow Is Away on iTunes! The short film (Ed: a still from which is above) won a bunch of awards and was eventually shortlisted for an Academy Award (which, sadly, we didn’t get.) Do check it out! Especially if you like Hello Lonesome, you can trace a lot of Hello Lonesome's funny/sad DNA back into this little project. I shot it myself for $3,000 with a total crew of 2, me included.

What’s a sea-monkey? (That’s from your IMDB bio….) You have 250 of these? They must be small, I hope…

You don’t want to know… But in case you do: here's the link.

Editor's note: We went on the site.  Yikes.

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