Last Stop for Paul
Now Showing at: Cincinnati World Cinema on May 22th and 23rd.
Review by: Larry Thomas
Low budget, guerrilla-style, on-the-run filmmaking has been around for years and sometimes can produce some interesting results. John Cassavetes started that way using hand-held 16mm cameras, friends for actors, and improvising the script as filming progressed.
The dawn of the digital age has made this easier for wanna-be movie makers with lighter, cheaper equipment that will render good quality picture and sound.
Last Stop for Paul might be summed up as Rick Steves meets The Big Lebowski. Charlie and Cliff have worked in the same office for ten years. Charlie uses every spare moment and available dollar to indulge in world travel. Cliff never goes anywhere. When Cliff’s childhood friend Paul suddenly dies, Cliff agrees to go an around-the-world trip to exotic places with Charlie on one condition…they have to take Paul’s ashes and scatter them in all the places he would never get to see.
Unfortunately, Last Stop for Paul misses having two of the most important elements for a venture of this sort: actors who can act, and a script that is interesting. Neil Mandt has his fingerprints all over this project, as a producer, writer, director, camera operator and lead actor. His performance is the most accomplished in the film, and he has a Greg Kinnear-ish kind of charm, but not enough to make a major impression, or carry an entire film.
Marc Carter, who is actually the director of photography, plays his bud, Cliff. Carter’s camera work is very good. The location scenes in South America, Europe, and Asia might stir the viewer to think, “yeah… I want to go there.” His shot compositions in the dramatic scenes show some imagination. But as an actor, he obviously missed class that day. The rest of the performers seem to be real people that Mandt encountered on his journey, which sometimes works, and other times doesn’t. Heather Petrone, as a girl Charlie becomes smitten with, is also one of the camera operators. She’s almost charming, and with a little work could likely become a decent actor.
And there’s something inherently off about a film in which virtually the entire action is moved forward through the use of first person, voice-over narration. Yes, it’s nice to be able to keep up with what’s happening in the story, but it would have been much better to do so through the use of dialogue and a well-developed script.
For aspiring filmmakers who think it would be an adventure to handle all the chores him or her self, Last Stop for Paul should be the textbook argument against taking on that much responsibility early in a career.
Last Stop for Paul is being shown by Cincinnati World Cinema at the Cincinnati Art Museum on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week at 7 pm. The film will be preceded by a short film by a local filmmaker, who will be in attendance for discussion.