Producers: Jonathan Burkhart, Dorottya Mathe and Greg Naughton Director: Greg Naughton Screenplay: Greg Naughton Cast: Rich Price, Greg Naughton, Brian Chartrand, Richard Kind, Boyd Gaines, George Wendt, Kelli O’Hara, Keira Naughton, Chris Sullivan and James Naughton Distributor: RGB Film
The three stars of this musical comedy-drama—Rich Price, Greg Naughton and Brian Chartrand—are the members of the folk rock trio The Sweet Remains, and their songs are a major part of the script Naughton has concocted about how three guys come together to form a band like (you guessed it) theirs. “The Independents” is slight, but a warm, affectionate movie that’s engagingly droll and unpretentious—and the music is unfailingly pleasant.
It starts with Rich (Rich Price), a put-upon New York Lit grad student who’s working to finish his dissertation but spends much of his time writing songs to perform to his own guitar accompaniment, much to the annoyance of his upstairs neighbor. One day he’s accosted by Greg (Greg Naughton), a goofy but pleasant fellow who’s nearly beaned him with a tree branch but is also obsessed with making music. They join forces, after a fashion, and decide to drive to an Ohio folk music festival in Greg’s dilapidated van. Along the way they pick up a hitchhiker named Brian (Brian Chartrand), a bedraggled sort who, it turns out, is a guitarist in sync with their style.
Though the three are temporarily separated after Brian stalks off following a wacky altercation with a cop (Greg’s father James), Rich and Greg track him down, and an impromptu session at a club catches the eye of a fast-talking promoter (Richard Kind), who offers them a gig in a Los Angeles club. The picture then turns into a road movie with plenty of bumps in the pavement, not the least when Greg goes back to New York in an effort to reconcile with his ex-wife. And when they reunite for the date in L.A., their set goes amusingly awry. Still, all is not lost, as long as busking remains an option.
Price, Naughton and Chartrand are hardly stellar actors, but their shambling, low-key style is disarming, and they work well together, both in the seriocomic scenes and the musical numbers. Kind is brusquely funny as a guy who’s like a force of nature, if not an entirely reliable one, and George Wendt contributes a wry cameo as an angry stage-door manager.
No one will mistake “The Independents” for a big Hollywood production—in that respect the title is well-chosen. But Piero Basso’s cinematography, James Bartol’s production design and Jon Vesey’s editing are all more than acceptable. The result is clearly a labor of love—and a charming one that would be a real crowd-pleaser if it ever reaches large numbers of viewers.