Cinema Libre // 2009 // 99 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Josh Rode (Retired) // January 19th, 2012
When now is all you've got.
Director Philippe Diaz has some strong opinions about the world and America's place in it, and for his soapbox he has chosen the steamy Now & Later. It's a good choice because, as we all know, sex sells.
Bill (James Wortham, The Yellow Wallpaper) is looking to get out of the country, after jumping bail because he bit off more than he could chew in an international debt-selling scheme. While waiting for his ride across the border, he holes up in the one-room apartment of Angela, an illegal immigrant who doesn't understand the American predilection for making a taboo out of sex. During his brief stay, Bill learns to see the world from a different perspective.
Bill represents Americans -- stuffy, arrogant, and so narrow he can see through a keyhole with both eyes. Not necessarily evil, just misguided by the evil empire he unwittingly serves. Angela, of course, speaks for Diaz, and therein lies the film's biggest flaw: it spends much of its time preaching the gospel according to its director. Angela's favorite topic of conversation is how uptight Americans are, when everyone else in the world recognizes that sex is just a natural thing. During her downtime from that spiel, she points out the hypocrisy of the American government, which acts like it's saving the world when in fact it's assassinating world leaders left and right.
Now & Later's message is not the problem. It's Diaz's film and he can make any point he wants. The problem is in the way it's presented. I get that this is meant to be part of the "single scenario sex" sub-genre. The characters are meant to be archetypes not people, and the entire point of the film is to have these disparate viewpoints debated during the downtime between sexcapades. Viewed in that respect, Now & Later is moderately successful, even if the debate is more of a sermon.
The film would have had a much greater impact, if it had shown Bill's time as a "master of the universe" along with his subsequent fall and flight from the country. There his culture shock in Nicaragua would have felt more immediate. Instead, there is no plot nor any build up to the kind of crisis which leads to a resolution. There's just a lot of talking interspersed with a lot of sex.
Speaking of sex, Now & Later is quite graphic, with lots of nudity from both genders, but Diaz pulls his punches. The sex scenes are haunted by choppy editing which makes everything feel surprisingly tame. What they lack in quality, they certainly make up for in quantity, as each escapade quickly cuts to the point of orgasm, which the actors portray with varying degrees of realism.
This choppiness extends to Diaz' overall direction, with frequent cuts where one character somehow moves across a room without taking a step. It isn't helped by Wortham's wooden acting (no pun intended). Bill is meant to be uptight at the beginning, until he gradually learns to loosen up and enjoy life. Sadly, the only part of his performance that feels even remotely authentic is his aversion to a three-way with Angela and Diego. Fortunately, Shari Solanis has more than enough charisma to carry them both. While she isn't asked to portray many emotions besides "softly amused" and "having an orgasm," she is able to deliver even the preachiest dialogue with natural conviction. If it wasn't for Solanis' effortless grace, Now & Later would be little better than a standard porn flick.
The 1.78:1/1080i high definition transfer is below par, especially for a Blu-ray feature. Colors are natural and balanced, with a decent amount of saturation, but the color palette is limited by the film's overall dark tone and there is a surprising amount of grain. What's worse, we get the same Dolby 2.0 stereo mix that comes with the standard definition DVD presentation. Same holds for the bonus features, including a "deleted sex scene!" and another scene featuring a surreptitious trip to Bill's old house, along with cast interviews and the film's uncensored trailer. If you're debating between the standard definition and the Blu-ray, don't waste your cash on this "upgrade."
With a better storyline, Now & Later could have been a deeply impactful film, but its tendency to preach keeps the exposition high and drains much of its potential energy. Still, it has a certain indefinable charm. No, wait, it is definable: Angela. Solanis' performance makes the film work despite its inherent flaws, and I'm not just saying that because she's naked for more than half the picture.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Libre
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080i)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Deleted Scenes