Heretic Films // 2006 // 87 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // May 30th, 2006
What happens when a life-long party boy and overall anchorless ship finds himself turning 30 all of a sudden? This is the question facing Conrad (Joe Egender).
Conrad lives in The Palace, a home nestled in the unassuming wastes of suburbia, populated by two of his closest friends, the non-English speaking Spanish landlord, and a host of squatters. For the residents of The Palace, life is merely a playground and a way to cling to their high school days. Kegs, horny women, a faint cloud of smoke permanently in a holding pattern in the living room -- it's all the norm.
But when full-blown slacker Conrad wakes up on the day of this 30th birthday, he finds himself at a crossroads. A talented writer, Conrad's career has been a rut for about 15 years, a period of malaise he attributes to the mental trauma done to him by his first girlfriend -- when he was 14. Since then, he's been unable to commit to anything, relationships or career path, and just cruises by in a haze.
His pals are planning a major back for him, and as he navigates through another night of hard-partying and unrequited love, he will be given the chance to reevaluate his life, and discover what the big 3-0 really means. And there will be strippers. Oh, yes. There will be strippers.
Don't be fooled by the unfortunate cover art Heretic Films decided to use for the Lurking in Suburbia disc case. At first glance, the DVD looks like it's going to be yet another mindless installment in the raunchy sex comedy genre that's lately been beaten silly by an endless marathon American Pie clones and forgettable National Lampoon college farces. We see our protagonist Conrad, hanging out in his bathrobe, flanked by two nimble blonde cheerleaders, a hapless grin on his face, and that oft-used, but rarely-lived-up-to "unrated" pronouncement. Turn the case over and you're met with a close-up shot of a cheerleader's legs, the special features imprinted on her inner thigh. Nothing wrong with provocative disc packaging, but my fear is that folks might be turned off by this lurid marketing approach, thinking Lurking in Suburbia is little more than another brainless sex comedy, rather than what it really is: an authentic, lighthearted, well-acted look at one guy's struggles with growing up.
This film is quite good. And Joe Egender is quite great. The entire film is narrated by Conrad, as he directly addresses the audience. It's a gimmick that took me a while to warm up to, but by the time the film ended, I was convinced it was the best way to go. Egender injects serious charm (and a nice dash of angst) into his character, making Conrad appealing. If Conrad was an irritant, wow would this film have been painful. But no, he's a great character and I gladly accepted him as my guide.
Through this tactic, writer/director Mitchell Altieri is able to blend both the "show" and "tell" methods of exposition. Conrad spells out his personal history and his insights and experience, but as an audience we then get to see how scenarios that have been set up by his monologues play out. For instance, he goes on at length about the emotional hammerlock his first girlfriend experience threw down on him, and later in the film, when he encounters her for the first time in 15 years, we get the payoff. It's a nice system.
Oh, and relax, there's enough debauchery to go around. You still get plenty of wild partying, casual sex, topless strippers, potty talk, and beer guzzling galore. It's just that all this stuff is in the background, swirling around Conrad and his grappling with growing up. In fact, the wanton hedonism, while pretty much the sole generator of sight gags, is painted as the type of life to avoid rather than embrace (at least in Conrad's eyes).
As for the humor, apart from a few inspired set-pieces -- standouts include Conrad feeding one of his moron buddies a sentimental breakup speech and Conrad's realization that he went to school with a potential hook-up's mom -- the comedy is wry and understated. Lurking in Suburbiais very close to being more of a drama than a comedy. And that's not a bad thing.
Heretic put together a solid presentation: the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks fine (despite what is most certainly a diminutive budget) and the stereo sound is adequate. The cast's "drunken" commentary is fun and active, easily the highlight of the extras. Deleted scenes and trailers top off the bonus materials.
Lurking in Suburbia is a deep, funny look at a demographic that is seldom explored: the post-collegiate, late 20s/early 30s male-at-a-crossroads former frat boy. Where do these fascinating creatures end up when the keg has run dry?
Not guilty. The court approves.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Heretic Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Drunken Commentary
* Deleted Scenes