Producers: Josh Marble and Chris S. Alexander   Director: Josh Marble   Screenplay: Steven K. Hellmann   Cast: Munro Chambers, Roland Buck III, Avalon Penrose, Katie Gill, Chris Sturgeon, Jonathan Dylan King, Kristin Zimber and Kennedy Marble   Distributor: Long Board Productions    

Grade: C

The striving for a “Big Chill” vibe is clear in this modest ensemble drama, but perhaps because the reassembled group has been apart for only six years rather than fifteen, the impact is considerably less.  That—and the fact that Steven Hellmann’s script is more verbose than revealing, and the cast, while committed, are less than compelling.

The occasion for the get-together is the release from prison of Tyler Richards (Munro Chambers), who alone took the rap for marijuana possession that could also have implicated his college friends.  One of them, his best bud Justin (Roland Buck III), picks him up at the gates and drives him back to a big house he’s rented for the night, where their old pals will assemble for dinner, drinks—and a great deal of talk. 

Among the attendees will be Kate (Katie Gill), Tyler’s onetime girlfriend.  She’s moved on, though, and brings along her arrogant fiancé Zachary (Jonathan Dylan King).  The others include Peter (Chris Sturgeon), who’s gotten a job through connections (being with Michelle, the daughter of his boss, played by Kristin Zimber) and Allison (Avalon Penrose), a single mom who brings her sweet little daughter Selena (Kennedy Marble).

The thrust of the film is Tyler’s perplexity in adjusting not only to freedom, but to seeing what his friends have become, much to his disappointment.  His reaction explodes when he accuses them of wasting their talents over the intervening years no less than he did serving time in prison, only to emerge to find them not nearly as thankful as they might be.  Though by the close he’s calmed down, thanks mostly to Justin, the future remains uncertain for him, and everyone else. 

There are compelling moments in “Taking the Fall,” and dialogue sequences that hit the mark.  Too often, however, the conversation just rolls along without offering much insight into the characters; it’s not that the lines are stilted or unbelievable, merely kind of drab.  The acting, too, is good—with Chambers the standout—but generally just okay rather.  The craft work too is adequate without being outstanding: co-producer Chris S. Alexander was the cinematographer, while writer Steven K. Hellmann was production designer and director Marble also edited.  The spare music score is by Marc D. Goguere.    

You have to admire the sheer effort of the cast and crew to have gotten “Taking the Fall” made (and distributed, which they’re doing on their own) at all.  It’s unfortunate the effort doesn’t pay off to greater effect.