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


Brightest Star

There comes a time in most of our young adult lives where we have to decide which path to take. The crossroads, which usually arrives in the early- to mid-twenties, can be terrifying because it makes you feel like you have to choose the course for the rest of your life right now. And what if you make the wrong choice? How can you even be expected to make such a lofty decision at such a young, impressionable age? These are the kinds of issues dealt with in the indie drama Brightest Star, and while the film doesn't have any revelatory answers, it at least gets points for thoughtfully exploring the issue.

Chris Lowell (The Help) plays “the Boy,” a recent college graduate who hits rock bottom when his beloved girlfriend, Charlotte (Rose McIver), dumps him. She describes Boy as being not ambitious enough. Devastated, he mopes around for a while before befriending a singer named Lita (Jessica Szohr). She convinces her businessman father (Clark Gregg) to give him a job. Boy sees this as his opportunity to prove to Charlotte that he's not just a slacker, and dives into it with gusto, despite not really caring for the work. Outside the office, Lita develops feelings for him, while Charlotte, although somewhat impressed, reveals a willingness to overlook her own contributions to the failure of the relationship. Seemingly unable to figure anything out, Boy takes a chance on a long-time interest in the stars and gets a job at a remote observatory, where the head astronomer (Allison Janney) provides some crucial, life-altering wisdom.

Brightest Star was directed and co-written (with Matthew Mullen) by Maggie Kiley, and it's obviously a very personal film. You can feel Kiley relating to the material, investing it with a lot of empathy for people like Boy, who feel lost, unsure, and ill-equipped to sort stuff out. One gets the impression that Kiley's own experiences might have influenced the story; that's how identifiable it is. The film has some solid observations about why relationships sometimes don't work, and how it's easier to focus on another person's faults than on one's own. Boy's journey also has a ring of truth to it, as he goes through a trial-and-error process in his attempt to get his life on a course that feels right. Chris Lowell gives a nice, subtle performance, making the character's uncertainty relatable. The supporting performances are equally sensitive, with Allison Janney and Clark Gregg each adding a particular spark. Both actors play the kind of fully-actualized adult that Boy doubts he can ever become.

The thing that limits Brightest Star somewhat is its brevity. Running a mere 76 minutes (minus end credits), the film largely rushes through its story, thrusting Boy from one event to the next. The emphasis seems to be on getting him to his ultimate destination rather than showing the elements that shape his journey to the fullest degree possible. At times, it feels as though transitions happen because it's time for the plot's next act to begin, rather than because the character has really had an epiphany. What's here is good, but it could have been great had it slowed down a little and allowed for some greater expansion of the factors that shape Boy's journey.

In spite of that limitation, Brightest Star is notable for its effective performances and for the sincerity with which it tries to capture the confusion of young adulthood. Anyone who has felt those particular feelings will be likely to cut the movie some slack for occasionally choosing simplicity over maximum depth.

( 1/2 out of four)

Brightest Star is unrated but contains mild adult language and some brief sexual references. The running time is 1 hour and 20 minutes.

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