Producers: Nikki Brown and Kevin Del Principe    Director: Kevin Del Principe   Screenplay: Nikki Brown and Kevin Del Principe   Cast: Chase Fein, Chelsea Kurtz, Hunter Cross, Steve Holm, Jessica Lynn Parsons, Nikki Brown and Burke Sage   Distributor: Gravitas Ventures  

Grade: D

The press materials suggest that this character study/thriller by the USC-trained husband-and-wife team of Kevin Del Principe and Nikki Brown bears a kinship to “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” but Patricia Highsmith would blanch at the comparison.  Narratively thin and cinematically threadbare, “Up On the Glass” barely deserve a cursory inspection, let alone sustained examination.

The protagonist (anti-hero might be the better term) is Jack DiMercurio (Chase Fein), a Dartmouth grad whose career hasn’t fulfilled the promise of his academic background.  We first find him as a scruffy, bearded guy apparently living in his car after losing his latest short-term job in construction (or maybe architecture—he’s shown drawing some sort of primitive blueprint).  After shaving and cleaning up as best he can on the run, he heads for Benona Township, Michigan, where he’s been invited to a get-together at the lakefront home of his well-to-do college buddy Andy Shelton (Hunter Cross), who’s made good in the investment game.  

It’s a very small reunion: the only other attendee is jerky “Moze” Mosely (Steve Holm), who drinks too much and has a habit of embarrassing himself.  Jack, gloomy and angst-ridden, tries to participate in the strained horseplay, but his only real interest is in seeing Shelton’s wife Liz (Chelsea Kurtz), whom he was once involved with and obviously still has feelings for.  Moze shoves off quickly, leaving the two erstwhile roomies alone. They go off for a meal and meet up with Becca and Kate (Jessica Lynn Parsons and Nikki Brown), whom Jack had encountered earlier at the convenience store where they work, and with whom they have some fun.

But it’s just a passing flirtation, and once they’re alone again Andy spends much of the time pointing out Jack’s failure and boasting of his own success.  The hostility between them grows, finally bursting out in an act of accidental violence that leaves Jack with a corpse to deal with.  And Liz finally shows up.

That’s where the “Ripley” comparison arises.  Jack tries to keep Andy’s death a secret while awkwardly and guiltily reconnecting with the deceased man’s wife and disposing of the body.  Liz’s concern about her husband’s curious absence doesn’t help, nor do periodic intrusions by neighbor Bob McKenzie (Burke Sage), who seems to appear at the most inopportune moments.  The makers try to gin up some suspense while continuing their character study of Jack, who represents the failure of a middle-kid kid to make it in the world despite a first-class education, but they never manage to generate much tension, and the ending is puzzling and inconclusive. 

Fein strains to convey Jack’s inner turmoil and winds up overacting strenuously, while Cross’s attempt to seem sleek and confident merely comes across as smarmy and Kurtz is bland.   Holm is persuasively annoying—a dubious achievement—while Sage is particularly amateurish and grating.  The technical side of things (cinematography by Mark Blaszak, editing by Nicholas Sy music by Oscar Jasso) is mediocre, resulting in visuals in which even the Lake Michigan shore looks bleak rather than inviting. 

“Up On the Glass” raises some issues, personal and sociological, that are intrinsically interesting, but the indifferently written, laxly directed movie doesn’t dramatize them effectively.