Although the title might at first blush suggest a comedy about drag queens, "Mascara" is a drama about a trio of female best buddies on the cusp of 30 who decide to conceal their emotional blemishes no longer and to get their messy lives in order.
The second feature from Linda Kandel
("Naked Jane") is fraught with self-absorbed, touchy-feely psychobabble - the kind of chick flick that gives chick flicks a bad name.
While bright performances and somewhat gratuitous nudity keep it from being completely insufferable, even the indie's target audience will turn elsewhere for messages of empowerment.
Kandel, who has said her intention was to update the classic women's film, does the genre no favors with her tediously insular profile of three Southern California friends at a crossroads.
First, there's Laura ("Like Water for Chocolate"'s Lumi Cavazos
), a therapist who needs a little counseling after her marriage to selfish, big-spending Donnie (Steve Schub) goes south shortly after the wedding.
Then there's free-spirited Rebecca (Ione Skye
), who's on the verge of committing to a relationship with older photographer Nick (played nicely by ex-Sex Pistol Steve Jones) when his incestuously flirtatious daughter (Tara Subkoff
) moves back in with him, propelling Rebecca instead to have a tryst with a young man (Corey Page
) who turns out to be Nick's son. Oh, and her life takes on deeper meaning when she learns that the father she thought long dead is alive and well and selling used cars in Northern California.
Last but not least, there's highly unsympathetic Jennifer Amanda De Cadenet
), who, unable to forgive her husband for a past infidelity, ups and leaves him and their young daughter one day, checks into a San Francisco hotel, gets drunk and picks up a creep who subsequently rapes her.
Given what they have to work with, the cast - particularly Skye and Cavazos - does an admirable job grounding their soapy characters in credibility, and Kandel coaxes good things out of them.
While her script isn't always somber and introspective, Kandel's periodic attempts at light comedy fall awkwardly flat.
Considering the picture's low budget, technical contributions are impressive, though after the first half-hour of enduring cameraman Francois Dagenais' fondness for handheld sequences, you want to take up a collection and buy him a tripod.
An Anamorph Films production
Director-screenwriter: Linda Kandel
Producer: Crocker Coulson
Director of photography: Francois Dagenais
Editor: Jane Pia Abramowitz
Music: Steven Medina
Music supervisor: Tequila Mockingbird
Rebecca: Ione Skye
Laura: Lumi Cavazos
Jennifer: Amanda de Cadenet
Nick: Steve Jones
Donnie: Steve Schub
Daphne: Tara Subkoff
Andrew: Corey Page
Aunt Eloise: Karen Black
Running time - 94 minutes
MPAA rating: R