A man who lost his family in the September 11 attack on New York City runs into his old college roommate. Rekindling the friendship is the one thing that appears able to help the man recover from his grief.
Jada Pinkett Smith
He's got no stamina.
I love your nose.
Oh, thanks. I wanted to get my nose done since I was ten. It wasn't as simple as I thought. The doctors found out that I didn't have any cartilage in the tip of my nose. So then he needs to do that. Um, my nose was too long, so, I needed to shorten it. And then it was too wide so I had to thin it. And, uh, it was just a lot more complicated than I thought. My nose was just an insane amount of money.
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A simple, but highly compelling and emotive tale .
How far do our decisions in life take us, and how long do we eventually live by the ripples that such choices create? Flashbacks of a Fool, the debut feature from writer and director Ballie Walsh, takes it upon itself to divulge in such questions, and the answers that it gives, although extremely simplified and a little underwhelming in scope, nevertheless pack a resounding and emotional punch. Taking its time to develop rounded characters that stay within the confines of real life whilst managing to retain a sense of compelling relevancy, the feature tells a story that most audiences should be able to take something from. Sure it sometimes moves at a snail's pace, and suffers from an extremely incoherent third act, yet despite the movie's biggest problems, it's the things that Walsh does right that makes Flashbacks such an enjoyable drama for anyone that likes to explore the darker sides of human desire.
A story with three distinct, crudely sewn together acts, Flashbacks of a Fool tells the story of a has-been actor, now spending most of his days drinking, doing drugs and paying women to sleep with him. Opening with current day Joe Scott (Daniel Craig) the movie introduces us to the waster in a very poignant and effective first act that details Joe's incessant need for indulgence at the expense of everyone around him. This in turn then sets up the real meat of the story, which in turn is set a good twenty or thirty years in the past, back in Joe's teenage years. Through this lens we observe Joe as he chooses the paths that eventually lead to the character we have so far been introduced to. Of course, we know instinctively where it's all going to go, and Walsh's script sometimes gets caught up in details involving this development, but in turn it is these details that give Flashbacks its heart and soul.
The details I'm referring to of course are little things called characters; Walsh makes sure to keep Flashbacks of a Fool rich in characterization, by using only a minimum ensemble. Through this the film manages to convey both the character of Joe and his decisions in an objective light; we see the decisions he makes, and the people that those decisions affect, most of the time without him realizing. Coming full circle with a scene that capitalizes on the real selfish nature of both his and another character's choices, the movie achieves its resonating moment of poignancy through a death that is built upon drawing tears. From here on in Flashbacks never quite reaches the same height, and the pacing and overall structure is bothersome, particularly during a mostly useless third act which staples itself to act two as a kind of conclusion that fails to offer much if any- resolution.
Such is Flashbacks of a Fool's biggest problem; its framing and structure. Although each segment is finely told and expertly shot, the script always comes across as being informant, but incoherently so. As a result, the middle act never truly feels connected to the two that bookmark it, and obviously certain characterisation is null and negated as a consequence. The performances from Craig, and standout Harry Eden who plays Joe as a teenager, are solid enough, and play to the same grounding personality traits to offer a sense of progression from A to B, yet the script's slapped together and undeveloped feel often distracts away from these highlights. Nevertheless, with a wonderful ensemble cast mostly comprising of minor-star English talents, Flashbacks isn't just a powerful, and relevant story told with three dimensional characters; the cast themselves embody their personas effectively and with great consistency, at least until the third act. But then again, you can't blame them for getting confused with such a massive leap in narrative.
Perhaps one of the standout features of the film however lies in its aesthetic design. From the magnificent on-location settings to the retro costumes, cinematographer John Mathieson has the wonderful job here of capturing it all as best as he can, and that he does. Not only does he frame his wide-angle establishing shots with a serene sense of natural beauty, but there are also many instances of remarkable angles, lens effects and framings of much closer shots that embody similar moods; evoking both emotion towards the characters on screen, and at the same time capturing moments usually punctuated with a song from the nostalgic soundtrack with much needed simplicity. And yet, this is essentially what Flashbacks of a Fool comes down to; it's simplicity. Detailing the paths of a young man and how he came to be the wasted, indulgent has-been that he is, Flashbacks is a simple, but highly compelling and emotive tale about humanity, our desires, choices and companions that travel with us along the way. It may not be a smooth journey by any means, but it's got enough heart to make it a memorable and rewarding one.
A review by Jamie Robert Ward (http://www.invocus.net)
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