Sunday, April 28, 2013

Party time in TURTLE HILL, BROOKLYN: Slice-of-life dramedy from Ryan Gielen

The last time TrustMovies covered a film by Ryan Gielen -- The Graduates -- the marketing process proved more interesting than the movie itself. I'm happy to report that Gielen's latest effort to get a theatrical release, TURTLE HILL, BROOKLYN, is very much worth seeing for the film at the center of things. Gielen both wrote and directed the earlier movie; here, I suspect, he is acting more as a journeyman filmmaker, working for the film's writers/
producers/stars, Brian W. Seibert and Ricardo Valdez.

Mr. Gielen's skill (the filmmaker is shown at left) still comes through aplenty, as he continuously shoots the characters close to the vest and captures moment after moment that seem to be real, odd, funny and sometimes a little embarrassing. (The very good editing is by Morgan Neville, with near-documen-tary-like cinematography by Andrew Rivara.)

Gielen is in a very different milieu here from what he was in his earlier film (and from the sound of things, also from his recently completed movie, Drinking Games), but he immerses himself and us smack in the middle of it: no apologies necessary, so better keep up with it all or die trying. The result is a distinctive slice-of-life comedy/drama that takes us from the morning of a very special 30th birthday party through that party, with the introduction of family and friends, right on into the following morning -- during which issues are raised (but not necessarily settled) that plague so many budding and even long-term relationships.

Mr. Seibert (shown above, who also played a role in The Graduates) and Señor Valdez (below) play a couple whose relationship initially seems pretty wonderful until, little by little, the cracks in the facade appear, mostly due to the fact that both men have been not quite truthful enough with each other.

The screenplay these two have concocted is written with naturalness and reality in mind, but it is also pretty rich in important themes (from the place of Hispanic immigrants in New York City's boroughs to the importance of fidelity in relationships) and interesting details (how do all those Hispanic workers we see in restaurants around the city feel about their job and their bosses).

The ensemble (pictured above and below) gathered together for the film is an interesting bunch, as well -- nicely varied in age, sex and sexual preference, with each actor given the chance to create a believable character. It's unusual, in this large a cast, to allow everyone to register so strongly as individuals, but the combination of script, actors and director has made it possible.

Whether via plan or simply a limited budget, the movie manages to circumvent melodrama pretty well. (The one bit of action/violence is not even shown but only spoken of, post-event.)  While we enjoy the large cast of characters, it's our two "hosts" whose plight involves us most.

The movie thankfully does not tie up all the loose ends, particularly that of where this relationship is headed. But as early morning arrives and bedtime beckons, my companion offered his own take on our couple of the moment: "I think they're gonna make it." It's not in the bag, of course. But we can hope.

Turtle Bay, Brooklyn, from Believe Limited and Will Pork Productions and running just 80 minutes, opens this coming Friday, May 3, in New York City at the Quad Cinema. Elsewhere? I'm not sure, but a DVD and VOD are probably in the cards soon.

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