A well-known actor, who hasn't accepted a role in four years, is considering a project. The cousin of the director drives him to Archie's Ranch Market, in Carson, and drops him off to do a little research. He's fascinated by one of the checkers, Scarlet, a young woman from Spain with a preternatural ability to ring up items at the cash register. She hates her job, stuck at the 10 items or less lane. The actor chats her up, and when her shift ends, he asks for a ride. In the course of the afternoon, he helps her prepare for a job interview. She needs to have confidence, he needs to commit. Human contact, however brief, can change people. Written by
Yet Another Brief Encounter Yields Two Smart Performances in a Deceptively Casual Fable
Running only seventy-two minutes, this small, overlooked 2006 dramedy is really just a two-character sketch piece but one that works very well within its limitations. Taking place almost entirely in various, non-descript spots in southern Los Angeles, the story itself is inconsequential, but like Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation", the film is far more about two strangers who meet unexpectedly, find a common bond and go back to their lives enlightened for the momentous encounter. It also helps considerably that Morgan Freeman and Paz Vega are playing the characters. Finally freed of the wise sages and authority figures beyond reproach that have become his big-screen specialty, Freeman seems comparatively liberated as a somewhat self-indulgent movie star. His character is driven to a low-rent grocery store in Carson, where he will be able to research a role he is considering in an indie film.
Out of work for a few years, he is embarrassed when he sees DVDs of his films in the bargain bin, but his ego is such that he does not lack the temerity to watch and even mimic the enervated store staff. Of particular fascination to him is Scarlet, an embittered worker from Spain and relegated to the express line where she is the unsung model of efficiency. She has an interview for a secretarial job at a construction company, but her deep-seeded insecurity seems to defeat her chances already. Still looking like Penelope Cruz's Amazonian sister, the beautiful Vega (one of the few redeemable aspects of James L. Brooks' execrable "Spanglish") brings a stinging edge and realistic vulnerability to Scarlet. She and Freeman interplay very well throughout the story, which includes stops not only at the grocery store but also at Target, Arby's and a full-service carwash. Nothing earth-shattering happens except to show how two people realize the resonating transience of chance encounters.
Silberling keeps the proceedings simple, but the production also reflects expert craftsmanship in Phedon Papamichael's vibrant cinematography (he lensed Alexander Payne's "Sideways") and the infectious score by Brazilian composer Antonio Pinto ("City of God"). There are fast cameos by Bobby Cannavale (as Scarlet's soon-to-be-ex-husband) and as themselves, Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, as well as a funny bits with Jonah Hill ("Knocked Up") as the clueless driver and Jim Parsons (the "knight" in "Garden State") as a worshipful receptionist. The 2007 DVD is overstuffed with extras, including a making-of documentary, "15 Days or Less", aimed at film students and running a marathon 103 minutes; six extended scenes; a light-hearted but insightful three-way conversation between Silberling, Freeman and Vega in the middle of Target; and a couple of snippets that specifically advertise the DVD.
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