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By Rachel Galvin
"Seducing Charlie Barker" is a great character study filled with unexpected twists and turns and comic interactions. The characters are light and funny. The situations start out realistic but always with an unexpected twist with comic results. Although it begins slowly, as the plot thickens, the interplay between the four leads is enticing, making you want to know more and see more! This could be a TV series reminiscent of "Curb Your Enthusiasm."The only difference is that, in this world, everyone seems to have a dark side, making it, as a fellow critic said, "Hard to root for anyone." But, this critic, just didn't care... I loved the grit. There also is some nudity and sex, by the way ... oh, and vodka...lots of vodka (but I will discuss that later).
The film follows four characters primarily. While "Nazi priestess" Stella (Daphne Zuniga) is busy trying to rule the world with highlighters in her stressful job in the non-stop world of TV, the vapid vixen Clea (Heather Gordon) moves in like a social climbing succubus on her husband, down-and-out actor Charlie Barker (Stephen Barker Turner) via Charlie's best friend, the under dog who eventually learns to bite back, Lewis (David Wilson Barnes). As I said, this morality tale has a dark edge. It is satirical and surreal as it discusses the Showbiz "scene" and how Charlie is finally able to get back in the game by losing everything. Like Pinocchio wanting to be a real boy, this puppet, held at bay by reality, clips his strings and spreads his wings only when he can become as falsely larger-than-life and plastic as those he at first despises.
The back and forth, often quick paced dialogue adds to the charm of the characters. The verbage is filled with prize one-liners. The characters spew their souls over vodka, vodka and more vodka. It turns out that the producer, Maurice Kanbar, who makes an appearance in the film, is founder of SKYY Vodka... now it all makes sense. Look for Blue Angel Vodka in a liquor store near you.
This piece is carried along by an excellent score composed by Bruce Fowler, who has worked with the likes of Frank Zappa, Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Don VanVliet, Ella Fitzgerald and Quincy Jones.
The cast and crew took over 8 stories of a building in San Fran for the low-budget shoot, which encompassed only 21 days. Shot also in New York for ambiance (since they are supposed to be in New York), this film cinematically, in parts, seems more like a play than a film, probably because the down-to-earth and approachable director, Amy Glazer, has mostly worked in theater, not film; although, she has directed film previously. The actors all were in the play version called "The Scene," by Theresa Rebek, before they reprised their roles in the film version.
Glazer, who was actually born and raised in Miami Beach, said, "I mostly am a theater director ... mostly working with new plays. Everybody had done the play ... Plays are much easier, but there is not as much control. Making movies is much more gratifying."
This is Glazer's third film. All three were based on plays.
Glazer comes from a family of storytellers with great importance in Miami. her brother, Mitch, who helped her with this film, is a writer and producer who is the creator of the TV show "Magic City," which was filmed in Miami. Her uncle, Sidney, produced "The Producers" and "Take the Money and Run." Her father, Leonard, a consulting electrical engineer, designed the lighting for most of the major hotels on Collins Avenue and for runways at Miami International Airport. Her mother, Zelda, an educator, founded the Zelda Glazer Writing Institute at the University of Miami; Zelsa Glazer Middle School in Coral Way was also named after her. Amy went to school with Mickey Rourke and directed his first play. Her best friend is Mitchell Kaplan, founder of Books & Books.
When Glazer first started sending this film out to big festivals, every time, she got rejected, but she was able to brush it off, pick herself up and start submitting to smaller fests. She not only got in, but started winning awards. In 2010, the film, for instance, won "Best American Indie" award at FLIFF. For more information of film, visit www.seducingcharliebarker.com.
The film is now playing at Living Room Theaters: http://fau.livingroomtheaters.com/.