WALKING ON THE SKY (2005) ** 1/2 Randal Batinkoff, Carl T. Evans, Susan Misner, Chris Henry Coffey, Nicole Fonarow, Kristen Marie Holly, Michael Knowles, Jack Croicchia, Olivia Croicchia, Mike Marino. (Dir: Carl T. Evans)
"The Big Chill" for a New Millennium
Novice filmmaker Carl T. Evans who wrote, directed and co-stars makes a bid for a soul searching dramedy ala "The Big Chill" for the new millennium in this solidly acted yet flawed attempt to breathe fresh air into the navel gazing Yuppies sub genre with mixed results but a good eye and ear for dialogue and characterizations.
The premise focuses on a small group of friends who are faced with the sudden tragic death of one of their own when he commits suicide leaving the remaining six in a free-fall of attempting to find out why. Among the sextet are minor league baseball player Nick (Batinkoff); Yuppie couple Jim and Liz (Coffey and Fonarow); sweet animal lover Joann (Holly); Sara, the gorgeous ex-fiancée of the recently deceased Josh (Knowles); and Dylan (Evans), the ne'er do-well whose estrangement becomes a prickly thorn that will cause some old unhealed wounds to open.
Sitting in Josh's Manhattan apartment and consoling one another after Sara has been cold-calling each one in a devastating opener of empty dwellings with only answering machines to lament to, the friends in shock and disbelief gaze into the abyss of their relationships that have been on the fringe of late. Then Dylan discovers a diary that Josh had amongst his personal items which proves to be a Pandora's box with secrets and confessions at their disposal. What follows next is some indelicately (and delicately) handled confrontations, verbal snipings, pettiness, jealousies and ugly innuendos that had never surfaced prior to Josh's death.
While the fairly unknown young cast clearly have talent and make the best with their at-times cookie cutter roles (i.e. Liz is a controlling corporate type; Dylan is the troubled black sheep of his family etc.) Evans allows them to have a few nice moments (including one for his character by the film's climax that is surprisingly moving). What falters is that the one-note plotting of the six buddies running hot and cold from one vicious attack to another while they lick their wounds. There are a few sequences where they lighten up by ingesting plenty of alcohol and a stash of Josh's hidden marijuana makes things merry for the group to even attempt a one-last time hang at their former watering hole for a night of karaoke (one major gripe: the karaoke is supposed to be a salute to the '80s but features songs by Bachman Turner Overdrive and The Kinks, both clearly not '80s songs; Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" saves the mistake and come to think of it is a not-too-subtle metaphor for the evening's gripe fest).
Evans is affective as Dylan the apparent screw up buddy and Batinkoff (best known for the Molly Ringwald flick "For Keeps") also shines with his athlete clearly the most upset about Josh's decision to end a life that the others are still struggling to make a stance in. I also liked Misner who proves to be more than a pretty face.
The only problem is that it is a very familiar type of story line and the only surprise is Dylan's monologue prior to the film's end that invigorates an otherwise predictable but engaging film. Evans (who won several awards at the 2004 New York International Independent Film and Video Festivals in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York) echoes a mix of John Cassavettes and Edward Burns; hopefully he will come into his own in his next offering.
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