Just what we needed–yet another independent movie about the struggle to make an independent movie. The “let’s put on a show” principle worked for Judy and Mickey, so it’s surprise that it should be so popular with the sort of good-natured but limited folk who made “L.A. Twister.” Unfortunately, the result is one of those feeble little efforts you’d be inclined to skip at a minor film festival–with good reason.
The “entrepreneurs” this time are a couple of San Francisco buddies, Lenny (Zack Ward) and Ethan (Tony Daly). The former moved to L.A. some time ago with the intention of breaking into movies as an actor; needless to say, he hasn’t succeeded, most recently submitting to the advances of a ghastly casting director (Wendy Worthington) in the hope of getting a role in a TV cop show. Ethan, on the other hand, is a new arrival, a plumber who’s devastated at being dumped by his wife of six years. The two guys become roommates and decide to make a movie when a chance encounter with a supposedly connected fellow from the east coast brings them a promise of financial backing. In the course of preparing their picture, Lenny links up with an aspiring actress named Mindy (Jennifer Aspen), who turns out to have a last-act secret, while Ethan–in between frequent bouts of despair over his failed marriage–meets an older woman, Vivian (Susan Blakely), whose husband happens to die while Ethan’s fixing the plumping, and who, as a widow, eventually becomes the angel the guys need (though not until Ethan’s depression has almost gotten the better of him).
On the technical side “L.A. Twister” isn’t bad–it’s actually a pretty professional job from a purely visual perspective. And the performances aren’t bad, either. Ward, though he can come off as irritatingly smug, is energetic as the fast-talking Lenny, and Aspen tones down Mindy’s potential abrasiveness. Daly’s sometimes very stiff, and he can’t make Ethan’s bouts of gloom (or his final reckless action) dramatically plausible, but his good looks help him get by. But the script by Geoffrey Saville-Read never reaches the clever stage, and it relies overmuch on unpleasant bits at the expense of the obese (especially gross in terms of the scenes involving Worthington) and even the occasional burst of homophobia. (The string of double entendres between Ethan and Vivian as they discuss his work is especially awful.) The direction by Sven Pape (whose name you’ll catch on a list of those auditioning for Lenny and Ethan’s movie) is, moreover, quite flat, giving little support to the cast. His habit of periodically inserting behind-the-scene snippets immediately following some sequences is also a too-cute touch, breaking the mood needlessly; we really don’t have to be reminded that this is only a movie–the quality of the material makes that all too clear. And a viewer’s heart is likely to sink when he sees yet another shot in a low-budget picture set against the famous Hollywood sign. Happily at least the walk of stars doesn’t make an appearance.
The ending of “L.A. Twister” goes into the realm of science fiction, when it asks us to believe that the picture Lenny and Ethan make about their experiences is a hit. On one point, though, the movie is a champion. Its press notes contain more misspellings and typos than any other I’ve ever seen. Actors may be a dime a dozen in Hollywood, it appears, but proofreaders must be rare specimens indeed.