Judge Bill Gibron wishes he could clone himself—then said copy can watch unsuccessful films like this.
Clone on the Range
Susan Hendricks (Drea Pressley) is at her wit's end. The loss of her daughter has driven her to distraction, and her dead end job at a local New Mexico movie theater is fraught with frustration and unwanted advances from the manager. Hoping to bring back some joy in her life, Susan contacts a disreputable doctor named Kurt Morell (Dr. Alan Rice). Specializing in the unseemly practice of cloning people's pets, the former medico insists he can do it with people as well. As long as Susan comes up with the deposit, he will begin the genetic rebuilding process. Strapped for cash, she robs the theater and takes newly hired illegal immigrant Javier Apollinaire (Jaime Estrada) along for the ride. Soon, they are pursued by a novice FDA agent (Jason Rosette) who hopes the couple will lead him to Morell. In the meantime, a local Native American father, himself in need of money to send his daughter to college, contacts some friends in hopes they will help. Oddly enough, their paths will all cross somewhere along the dry desert plains of the American Southwest.
Poor Jason Rosette. Here's a man imbued with a clear sense of cinematic vision. He can take the most mundane of vistas and magically turn them into optical gold. His eye is impeccable, his lens discovering the perfect framing and compositional shots to turn the bleak beautiful and the arid artistic. All throughout his film Lost in New Mexico: The Strange Tale of Susan Hero, he uses the flat Southwestern landscape as a canvas for placing his carefully considered works of art. And that he does it all on an independent filmmaker's no budget shoestring makes the accomplishment all the more meaningful. So why should we fell sad for such a talented painter of marvelous motion "pictures," especially when he can captivate us so? Because there is more to modern movies than the image alone. When you toss in his script and characterization, everything he accomplishes visually gets violated and undermined. Lost in New Mexico: The Strange Tale of Susan Hero is a perfect example of this plus-minus paradigm.
It's not hard to see where Lost in New Mexico: The Strange Tale of Susan Hero breaks down. Whenever Rosette moves from the simple story of a Native American dad looking for cash to help his child, the film goes catawampus. These scenes of local color give the movie something we haven't experienced before. It feels new and novel. Sadly, the rest is recycled from filmmakers who understand their own eccentricity better than Rosette. Clearly inspired by the more meaningless quirky aspects of the Coen Brothers' canon, the filmmaker allows his actors to overplay their sequences of idiosyncratic oddness to the point where we no longer care if they accomplish their goals. The FDA agents here (one of which is played by the filmmaker himself) are like leftovers from a rejected episode of Twin Peaks. Between one's bad hair and the others constant conversations with his mother, we get more peculiarity than we need. Similarly, Susan and her Mexican companion Javier are like rejects from an amateur novelist's failed first draft. Her desire to "recreate" her daughter is understandable. Her last act change into an outlaw is not.
Along the way, Rosette tosses the indie kitchen sink at the audience, giving us stuff that sells (anything Indian) and scenes that struggle (anything between Pressley and Estrada). The theater manager character is the kind of amiable ass-wipe that should be memorable. Instead, as with most of the movie, he's just mediocre. Perhaps the biggest flaw in Lost in New Mexico: The Strange Tale of Susan Hero is the lack of an identifiable investment. Why should we root for Susan to succeed? Why is the story of the American Indian more compelling? Why is Javier painted in such a silly savant light? And where exactly does being a big fat momma's boy lead to any kind of comic enlightenment? All of these questions and dozens more are poised against a picturesque backdrop that deserves attention. Had Rosette been as skillful and cunning with his story, we'd have something very special indeed. As it stands, we have a beautiful looking film that's vacant where it counts most—in the narrative and human element.
Provided to DVD Verdict in a strange package that offers just the movie and a 13 minutes slideshow (narrated by the filmmaker), it's hard to get a handle on the exact tech specs offered. Amazon.com (where you can purchase a copy) lists the film at 85 minutes, which appears right. The aspect ratio settles around 1.78:1 and is non anamorphic. The sound quality is Dolby Digital Stereo and quite good (the nominal scoring is very effective), and there are no other bonus features to speak of. Indeed, for all intents and purposes, this appears to be a screener with the director's defense of his efforts acting as narration for his collection of production stills. The only thing missing is a burned-in notation that Lost in New Mexico: The Strange Tale of Susan Hero is "the property of Camerado Productions."
Independent filmmakers are often criticized for doing little more with their
limited budgets than shooting their friends sitting around, talking. One thing
this movie is not is overloaded with exposition. Indeed, Rosette spends a lot of
his time taking in the American West with all its desolate, determined wonder
intact. Lost in New Mexico: The Strange Tale of Susan Hero is worth a
look for such visual travelogue pleasures. Sadly, it won't connect with you on
any other level—intellectually or emotionally.
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