Following a brief stint in rehab, Judge Daniel Carlton no longer suffers from the DVDTs.
Each day is better than the next.
Bella and boyfriend Milo drive thirty miles north of Los Angeles to bail Milo's junkie brother Leo out of jail. A court order states that Leo must be in a rehabilitation center by 8:00 pm or he will spend several years in the slammer. That part is easy. The hipsters must scrape up the five thousand dollar fee by nightfall or Leo can't enter rehab. Milo, Bella and Leo resort to selling stolen cars, dealing drugs and doing whatever it takes to raise the money.
Where many films use handheld to an extremely dizzying degree—Cloverfield, The Bourne Supremacy—Director Tao Ruspoli kept a steady hand and superbly constructed a documentary-style adventure through the streets of Los Angeles. One would expect that getting a junkie into rehab would be heavy subject matter, but Fix takes it very lightly, at least for awhile. It is full of humorous and bizarre situations with authentic characters from the various walks of life that fill Los Angeles. Ruspoli's love for the city shines throughout as we are taken on a virtual tour, from lavish houses in the Hollywood Hills to the poorest of the projects. Few films capture the essence of Los Angeles to this degree and every character, even the minor ones, exude L.A.
Much credit should be given to actors Shawn Andrews (Leo) and Olivia Wilde (Bella), whose combined efforts hold the film together. The entire format would not have worked had these two individuals not performed so naturally in front of the camera, bringing a true sense of realism to the make-believe documentary. Andrews creates an extremely charismatic person in Leo, but unfortunately has a "too cool for school" personality hiding behind the needle to strengthen his hipster facade. Bella, along for the ride, completely buys into his charm and is willing to go to any length to help her new friend. Had Leo or Bella come off as bad actors, the format choice would have failed completely. Instead, the performances of Andrews and Wilde made for a unique film that shows some real originality.
Masterly interwoven within and around the handheld scenes are beautifully edited narrative montages using every technique of filmmaking imaginable. Generally, this style of showy filmmaking turns me off, but in this instance the methods blend extremely well because of the nature of the story. The viewer is on a quest with an addict to raise a large amount of cash, and we somewhat experience the various sensations related to drug use in the process. One scene might be overexposed with great amount of lights pouring into the lens, whereas the next scene might be full of saturated colors, both of which reflect Leo's current state. The flashy effects and sleek editing serve the screenplay well.
However, Fix isn't without its share of problems. While the playful nature gives an excuse to use crafty camera tricks, the overuse of musical montages later in the picture became annoying and the film's indie spirit takes over at times providing for some out of place scenes. When the group is out to try to sell some marijuana to make quick money, they pass an empty plot of land where one of the characters preaches about how the land was once used for a giant urban farm before being shut down by some government agency. Whatever it was didn't matter and I didn't care because we weren't supposed to take anything seriously up until that point anyway. Why should I then? I'm guessing that this is a subject close to the director's heart, which is noble, but it didn't gel with the surrounding scenes.
Another scene in which the filmmaker's indie spirit rears its ugly head appears later in the film, when Milo is being led by Leo to a place where he can shoot heroin. Some guy in the building goes into this spiel about how Leo is an angel because he supplies fresh needles to the junkies since the government won't. Besides the completely irrational government bashing, this scene felt even more out of place and Milo's own dialogue saying, "It's not like what you see in the movies at all" was so self-referential that this is where the film lost me. We were already asked to believe that a guy is going to carry a camera all day because he is making a film. I could go along with that because the film had a comical tone from the outset. I couldn't go along with a sudden serious mood change and believing someone would film his brother shooting up on the way to rehab. I understand that this dark change in tone was reflective of Leo's addictive mood swings, but forcing the audience to face a reality within a chain of wacky events didn't blend at all.
This brings me to my smaller beef with Fix, the motives of the main characters. The only real incentive for getting Leo into rehab was to keep him out of jail, not to actually get him any sort of, you know, help from…uhhhh…the DRUG ABUSE. No where in the screenplay is there any genuine concern for Leo's health and well being. Milo and Bella are so mindless that they bail Leo out of jail and are immediately led on a wild goose chase through Los Angeles by a completely sick individual. It is important to note that had the film stuck with the comical tone, none of the motives would have even crossed my mind. Unfortunately, when the serious themes were brought into the picture, I was forced to think logically about the scenarios presented. Sorry, that's just the way it works.
Fans of the film should be more than pleased with the DVD's nice presentation and crisp transfer. The vibrant colors pop off the screen, yet preserve the film's rugged style. Most impressive for this indie release is the wide assortment of extras that add over three hours of bonus features to the film. This includes two commentaries, three short making-of documentaries, an interview with Tao and Shawn, a photo gallery and the trailer. The first commentary includes filmmakers Tao Ruspoli, Paul Forte and Christopher Gallo; who talk about the usual difficulties of making a film and laugh throughout about the many hurdles they had to overcome in doing so. Equally light-hearted is the actors' commentary featuring Shawn Andrews, Olivia Wilde and Tao Ruspoli yet again. The actors make it sound like the making of the film was as big of an adventure as the film itself. They also provide some interesting tidbits about the various cars in the film, including the black and white Impala, and share various stories that went on behind the scenes. For instance, at the time filming was supposed to begin, Olivia Wilde was cast in the television show House and immediately the entire shooting schedule had to be shifted.
Fix has won numerous awards at international film festivals and it is easy to understand why. It is a good piece of art whose clear talent on the part of the filmmakers and actors come together in some impressive cinematic ways. It started out strong, but quickly turned south in the last chunk of the film. The initial vibe and spontaneity was lost when the weight of the picture became too heavy for the adventurous nature of the screenplay to support, causing me to question the motives of the characters. These flaws kept a good film from being a great one.
Not guilty, as long as Leo shows up for rehab.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
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