Judge Bill Gibron agrees with the PR campaign on this film—happy hour IS over.
Drinking and Droning One's Life Away
Some call it arrested adolescence, or the failure to launch. Whatever it is, the malaise that strikes young adults prior to hitting post-collegiate responsibility usually takes two forms—escape or encampment. The former can be in the structure-less form of recreational pharmaceuticals or other unnecessary addictions and psychosis. The latter sees Junior and/or his female equivalent shacking up in Mom and Dad's rumpus room, the refusal to grow up marked by a lack of clear social goals, limited or nonexistent job prospects, lots of video game consoles, and a faint odor of stale take-out. In the case of the festival favorite The Waterhole, the getaway of choice is liquor, and the local tavern that plays like St. Elmo's Fire for the Train and Good Charlotte crowd. In this genial, sometimes riveting indie effort, we get a real indication of where secondary education in the new millennium gets you. The answer is at times quite funny and at other instances, horrifically dire. In between are a lot of accomplished performers making the best of a low budget production dynamic.
Miller (Patrick J. Adams, Old School) is about to graduate from college and yet has no real direction in his life. He spends his days (and most of his nights) at the local drinking establishment, where he hangs out with his best buddies, the soon-to-be-married Jim (Jade Carter, JAG) and bartender Murphy (Matt Stasi, Most High). He has recently broken up with his girlfriend Ashley (Rebecca Mozo, Zerophilia) and can't quite accept that time and his pals are slowly moving away from him. Convinced that alcohol is the solution to all that troubles him, he becomes more than a fixture at the bar. But then another friend from his past (Joey Klein, American Gangster), a buddy with a real problem, arrives to shake things up. What he has to say about life and living inside a bottle will hopefully drag Miller out into the real world once and for all. On the other hand, it could drive him to stay on a destructive downward spiral which has no natural end in sight.
The Waterhole is a movie that gambles on three cinematic givens. First, it believes that its character-driven dramatics, topped off with efficient and insightful scripting, will keep an audience attentive even though the results are talky and almost exclusively locked into one location. The scribing task goes to first timer Nathan Cole, and it's a complicated conundrum. Second, it hopes that the actors hired can translate said emotional and narrative beats into a sensible, solid entertainment, even without the lack of ancillary eye candy or other motion picture sleight of hand. Thankfully, accomplished turns by stars Adams, Carter, Mozo, and Klein confirm that not every independent performer is one step away from an outright amateur hour. All are required to carry a lot of contextual weight, and they do so quite well. Finally, everyone relies on director Ely Mennin to bring it all together, to keep the various static aspects of the narrative from falling into a sedentary, cement-like pace. While he slips at times—you can't have almost nothing but dialogue and not devolve into inertness—the filmmaker makes the most of the material, and visa versa.
That means that The Waterhole is a decent, engaging effort with some intriguing insights and a few moments of mindless meandering. It doesn't bring anything new to the table, but offers depth and a few surprises. It's a grand resume reel for all involved, an acknowledgement that something other than homemade horror and lame Jackass oriented comedies can come out of the outsider scene. Mennin shows a lot of ability here, running through the typical narrative elements with purpose. Sometime, his cast can keep up. At other instances they are out of their league. Said trials and production tribulations are outlined in an interesting commentary, included along with some deleted scenes and a trailer for the film. All add to our understanding of how the film came to be, as well as the problems that face any microbudget movie. At least the 1.85:1 anamorphic image and Dolby Digital stereo sound are polished and professional. For the most part, The Waterhole comes across as a nicely executed exercise in nominal invention. It may drag at times, but in between are some sensational truths.
Not guilty, and not half bad.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Vanguard Cinema
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