THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"5 STAR DAY"
5 Star Day has an interesting premise, yet hardly a clue what to do with it. Cam Gigandet stars as Jake Gibson, a student who wants to disprove astrology for his class project. His idea is to find several other people who were born in the same hospital, on the same day, at roughly the same time that he was. He will then interview them about their most recent birthdays. If astrology is valid, he reasons, they will all have had the same kind of day predicted by their horoscopes. First, he meets Sarah Reynolds (Jena Malone), a single mother still reeling from the aftereffects of a druggie ex-boyfriend. Then he tracks down a nurse at a rehab, and an Atlantic City nightclub singer (who, oddly, appears to be a decade older than Jake). After meeting everyone and hearing their stories, Jake draws his final conclusions to present in class.
Like Jake, I've always looked at horoscopes with scorn. If there really was any truth to them, they'd be the same in every newspaper, and every person would have identical situations. Obviously, it's a lot of bunk. The idea of a guy pursuing this thesis is not a bad one. It has the potential for comedy and/or drama. 5 Star Day just doesn't know how to find either of those things. The movie is surprisingly conflict-free. Jake wanders from city to city, hanging out with different people in extended (and occasionally monotonous) sequences. There's nothing propelling the story forward, nothing to make us care what he finds. We're supposed to believe that he and Sarah are falling for each other after only a few hours, but that feels false. When he hangs out with the singer, it's just two guys drinking and smoking pot. After every person he meets, Jake dutifully logs a phone call to his best friend, Sam (Will Yun Lee); these scenes have the effect of stopping the story dead in its tracks, as they involve Jake telling his pal what we've already seen. I'm sure writer/director Danny Buday was trying to make something profound, yet he displays a chronic inability to generate momentum. Jake's journey – while interesting in theory – plays out in a boring, could we please just get on with it? fashion.
Without drama to keep us invested or humor to hook us, 5 Star Day ends up being an experience of only sporadic pleasures. There is a solid performance from the always-reliable Jena Malone, who creates a fully empathetic character we come to care about, with limited screen time. The cinematography is quite good, capturing the unique feel of every city Jake visits. Also, certain individual scenes play out nicely, indicating how the film might have unfolded with a better script.
On the whole, 5 Star Day is by no means horrible, but it is bland. And that's a shame because the premise and the performance from Jena Malone suggest that it could have been an indie gem. It just needed to up the stakes somehow, so that Jake's mission felt as important to us as it does to him.
( out of four)
5 Star Day hits DVD/Blu-Ray on Feb. 7, with a number of bonus features, including audio commentary from the director and cinematographer, a handful of deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and a photo gallery. You also get a short film, “Dependency,” that was directed by Danny Buday. Picture and sound quality on the DVD are very good.
5 Star Day is unrated but contains drug use and adult language. The running time is 1 hour and 37 minutes.
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