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Case Number 23034: Small Claims Court

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Life of Lemon

FilmWorks // 2011 // 74 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // December 30th, 2011

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All Rise...

Judge Franck Tabouring's life tastes like an orange.

The Charge

A little hope goes a long way.

The Case

Life of Lemon is the epitome of a small indie drama that doesn't rely on a complicated story to stand out. Instead, Randy Kent's film about a man's journey to a better existence embraces simplicity to convey its central message, focusing on relatable characters whose flaws and dreams feel equally realistic. Long story short, if you're in the mood for a harmless, occasionally heartwarming story about hope in tough times, Life of Lemon won't disappoint.

Written by Barry Kneller and set in Los Angeles, the film centers on Lemon (Kneller), an ambitious repairman who's desperately trying to put himself in a life better position. Although he's a dab hand at fixing things, Lemon is a guy with dreams that seem a little too hard to achieve. He would love to launch an acting career, but doesn't really have a clue how to go about it. Work is scarce, his hunt for a better job isn't going so well, and all his dad Arthur (Dan Lauria, The Wonder Years) tells him is to stick to what he does best: repair things.

The only person in his life with valuable advice is a homeless man named Lester (Willie C. Carpenter, Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood), who encourages Lemon to never stop believing in himself. Taking these wise words to heart, Lemon heads out to dig up some good old self-esteem and run after his big dreams like there's no tomorrow. That said, despite his determination to win out, even Lemon will soon learn that nothing in life is ever as easy as you think.

Okay, I may have just described the central plot of Life of Lemon as more exciting than it really is. Lemon's mission to attain complete happiness in life isn't exactly as compelling, but there's certainly a whole lot of truth behind his struggle to find the necessary hope to never give up. As such, director Randy Kent's movie emerges as a valuable lesson for those convinced their entire life revolves around nothing but bad luck.

Lemon, as flawed as he may be as a human being (aren't we all?), has a lot of patience and willpower, which are exactly the kind of qualities that can help make a lead character compelling and relatable. Lemon may hit a whole lot of barriers in his quest to a better existence during the film's 74 minutes, but he makes it his personal mission to never cave. It's certainly tough for many of us to be this courageous in real life, but Life of Lemon simply wants to reassure its viewers that clinging to hope can indeed be beneficial.

Although it boasts a slow pace, Life of Lemon is never boring. Kneller made sure to avoid melodramatic elements by injecting the script with several humorous scenes, and although they don't all succeed, viewers are occasionally treated to some pretty funny moments. Harmless and light, this low-budget indie does a solid job accompanying its lead character as he overcomes challenges and grows as a person. The final act may not be as convincing as the rest of the film, but by then you've warmed up to Lemon enough to look past the small plot flaws.

While Barry Kneller created a rich, engaging piece of screenwriting, he probably should've left the acting to someone else. It's not that he's a terrible actor, but his performance as Lemon often feels forced and not entirely credible. Kneller's facial expressions and reactions look and sound exaggerated, and I often had a tough time taking him seriously. Plus, each of the solid supporting actors easily outperform him in all of their scenes together.

I can only recommend this to fans of little indies you only see at film festivals. Life of Lemon boasts down-to-earth production values and rich visuals. Cira Felina Bolla's cinematography adds an extra layer of texture and Don Spangler's music fits the atmosphere very well.

The DVD carries a standard definition 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby 5.1 presentation. The visuals live up to indie standards, with a sharp clean image and contrast vibrancy that gives the film an interesting look. Unfortunately, the coloring is a little off between shots. Bonus features includes a commentary with Kneller, some brief interviews with the cast, a photo gallery, and a trailer.

Though not necessarily a memorable entry on the indie circuit, Life of Lemon has value in the form of an entertaining concept, a cute story, and likeable characters. If you're down on your luck with big dreams you think you may never achieve, give this one a shot. It may actually inspire you.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 78

Perp Profile

Studio: FilmWorks
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 74 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Drama
• Independent

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary
• Interviews
• Photo Gallery
• Trailer


• IMDb
• Official Site

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