The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


An L.A. Minute

Kiersey Clemons is one of the most charismatic and promising young actors around. If you've seen her work in Dope or Hearts Beat Loud, you know what I mean. She's on fire once again in the new indie An L.A. Minute. Unfortunately, the film as a whole is a trainwreck – a poorly-written, clumsily-directed, unrealistically-plotted fiasco. Clemons still lights up the screen, but even her considerable talents can't keep this thing afloat.

Gabriel Byrne plays Ted Gould, a best-selling, Pulizter prize-winning author who runs in the most elite social circles of Los Angeles. One night, he accidentally gives a homeless person a medallion that has significant personal value. Upon heading out to retrieve it, he is promptly mugged (by a "wacky" blind, baseball bat-wielding crook, no less) and left without any cash. Ted, wandering the streets, then meets a homeless performance artist named Velocity (Clemons) who fascinates him with her energy and passion. Gaining inspiration for a new book, he decides to stay with her. Velocity even joins him on a live talk show appearance the next morning, where he trashes his own work and she steals the spotlight, becoming an overnight media sensation in the process. Within the span of 48 hours, her star rises while his descends.

That's really the whole point of An L.A. Minute – to show how rapidly fortunes can change. Director/co-writer Daniel Adams delivers that point with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer blow. To transition from one scene to another, he uses (too many) montages contrasting images of the richest sections of L.A. with footage of homeless people sleeping on the street and setting up tent towns. Long after you've gotten the point, he continues to do it.

If the symbolism is overly obvious, the screenplay is even more so. Much of the dialogue is pure exposition. Characters say things because they're trying to give the audience information, not because they're really interacting with each other. For example, one scene has a couple of characters sitting around discussing the ups and downs of Ted's career, so that we know why he is the way he is. The old screenwriting adage “show, don't tell” is repeatedly ignored here. This has the effect of making that dialogue sound stiff and awkward. Everyone is like a screenplay-spouting robot.

An L.A. Minute also has an annoying tendency to create preposterous scenes that feel more like the work of a self-satisfied writer than the product of actual human behavior. When an ATM eats Ted's card, the polite, gun-wielding thief waiting to rob him gets on the phone with his credit card company in an effort to resolve the issue. Yeah, right. What Velocity does on the talk show is similarly forced, to the degree that you want to shout "Oh, come on!" at the screen. Then again, trying to spoof The Jerry Springer Show in 2018 is labored all on its own. The blocking of scenes is weird, too, with actors sometimes drifting strangely out of frame. There's literally a shot where one person's head is entirely cut off.

The sole bright spot is Clemons. Whereas everything else in the movie feels rickety, she brings an appropriate wild-card edge to the proceedings. The actress makes a wise choice, in that everything Velocity does is, by choice, performance art. Whether or not she's onstage is irrelevant, because the entire world is her stage. Clemons makes that idea palpable, so much so that we often wish An L.A. Minute had scrapped the other characters and the dopey plot and simply told a story about her.

No such luck. The film provides this rising star with a chance to show her stuff. Beyond that, it's a joyless bore.

( out of four)

An L.A. Minute is rated R for sexual content and language. The running time is 1 hour and 26 minutes.

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