Thursday, March 13, 2014

Pit Stop

An Independent Spirit Award nominee 
realizing Cassavettes’ dream

     We weren’t too enthusiastic about the Oscars this year because (1) they missed some of our favorite potential nominees and (2) the list looked like it was cribbed from The Independent Spirit Awards.  The ISAs give the John Cassavettes’ award annually to filmmakers working within a
$500,000 budget.  One of the nominees jumped off the screen at me and I found it on Movies on Demand.

Marcus DeAnda and Bill Heck
     Pit Stop screams ‘independent’ but silently.  Set in a small Texas town and examining two mature gay men (one Latino and out, the other Caucasian and almost painfully discreet) as they go about their lives, I kept hoping they’d finally meet.  One manages a lumberyard, the other’s a contractor, and they both deal with former lovers while searching for a connection.  Director Yen Tan paces the establishing shots and exterior scenes very slowly, which is usually the biggest turn off about independent movies for those that prefer popcorn epics.  

     The payoff, generally, with this ‘indie’ approach is patience on the viewer’s part to regard the characters and situation closely.  These are well-rounded characters or, as my old RTVF professor used to say, “there was time for the screenwriter and director to show many details about the characters.  Bill Heck as Gabe, the divorced, college
Gabe with Ex-Wife Shannon
Played by Amy Seimetz
educated contractor who’s extremely close to his daughter and ex-wife, and Marcus DeAnda as Ernesto, the emotionally torn, but ethically upright manager reveal layers of hope and doubt, romantic vitality and middle-aged resignation, but do so in a quiet, naturalistic fashion
Marcus DeAnda as Ernesto

that’s heartbreaking.  It’s the kind of movie where I thought I knew those people and those just like them.  Amy Seimetz as Gabe’s ex-wife Shannon is a quirky spitfire.  She has the snap and avidity of a younger Parker Posey.  Seimetz is an actress, writer, and producer of little-seen movies.  If mainstream producers were less chicken, I’d have thought they be trying to work with her in the near future. 

     It’s a movie that works against stereotypes continually.  It may be a rural small town in Texas, but the residents we meet are kind, intelligent, and sophisticated.  The two main characters are bilingual and they’re the most masculine male characters in the movie.  A Texan Markets (our version would

be United Dairy Farmers) gas station provides the setting for the title, but it’s only seen in glances.  A beautiful, gentle score by Curtis Glenn Heath emotionally fills in some of the elliptical narrative in the first half.

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