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One, two, three, Goh! I know it's cheesy, but I couldn't help myself.
I was a singer in a band, oh a hundred or so years ago and when I watched Goh Nakamura in Surrogate Valentine, it brought back memories of the days when the band and I trolled for gigs and hoped that the big break we all dreamed of was just around the corner. Together with writer/director Dave Boyle (White on Rice), Nakamura has created a little gem of a film that reminds me of those crazy days back when a life in the music biz was all I thought I wanted. Goh Nakamura may not be a household name, but he should be; not only because he co-wrote a fine film but also because he is a phenomenal singer and songwriter. If you enjoy good music as well as a wonderfully written story, you should love this charming little picture.
Facts of the Case
Real life singer/songwriter Goh Nakamura portrays himself in the independent film Surrogate Valentine. Goh is a struggling musician who's asked by his filmmaker friend to teach guitar to actor Danny Turner (Chadd Stoops), who's preparing for a role. Danny decides he needs to go on tour with Nakamura in order to do more research, and while on the road, Nakamura runs into his old high school friend Rachel (Lynn Chen, Lakeview Terrace). With some unconventional help from Danny, Goh throws caution to the wind to try and win the heart of his old childhood friend.
Part one of a planned trilogy, Surrogate Valentine definitely left me wanting more. Nakamura has a laid back demeanor and a dry wit that is pleasant to watch. He sold this character; sure he is just portraying himself, but not everyone has the ability to act, even as oneself, when faced with a written script and a movie camera. Shot in black and white this film has the fresh feel of Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It, a fairly good film done before Spike lost his way and began making films from the point of view of an angry old curmudgeon who chases the neighbor kids off his lawn. Where Lee's film is gritty, Surrogate Valentine is an easy going experience that also has a warmth that belies the coldness you can sometimes feel when an entire movie is shot in black and white. I got a sense of who Nakamura is and I wanted him to reveal even more.
Stoops character of Danny Turner is another key component to the films enjoyment. Danny is a hack actor also looking for his big break, and he hopes this role, as a "burned out sad sack musician" (his words), will be his foray into superstardom. At first Danny's nothing but a pain in the tuchus, a spastic unfocused individual who can't sing or even act really, and doesn't seem to have the wherewithal to put in a hard day's work. However Danny is good for the shy and reclusive Goh, helping bring him out of his shell to take a chance on the woman he loves. The two, who at first are severely incompatible, forge a friendship that is beneficial to both men.
Love interest Rachel is also at life's crossroads as she tries to figure out her own path and her feelings for Goh. Rachel's in a relationship with a douche of a guy named Bradley (Parry Shen, Better Luck Tomorrow), who after meeting Danny, developed a bit of a man crush on him, leaving Rachel to spend her time with Goh. There's a pleasant tension between Goh and Rachel who have great onscreen chemistry. I want this couple to be together, and it's easy to root for them too as you root for the success of Goh Nakamura in his music and his film career.
Surrogate Valentine is shot in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and the audio is in Dolby Digital 5.1. Extras include behind the scenes featurettes, deleted scenes and two music videos featuring original songs by Goh; one entitled "Better," and the other is the title track from the film. Goh has a great voice and the style of his music is reminiscent of the classic melodic sounds of the'60s.
Surrogate Valentine is a refreshing film that feels a lot like spending the evening with a close group of friends. I had a great time getting to know these characters who are quite likeable, and, similar to most of us, are trying to figure out this thing called life. I do hope they're able to make the other films in this trilogy, 'cause you gotta love a movie where a guy tries to impress a chick by drawing a happy face on his torso, just in case he gets lucky.
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