Ashley lives in the fast lane until a handyman invades her life and she's directing a Christmas play for underprivileged kids. She finds her soulmate and they might live happily-ever-after--... Read allAshley lives in the fast lane until a handyman invades her life and she's directing a Christmas play for underprivileged kids. She finds her soulmate and they might live happily-ever-after--unless her stepbrother gets her killed.Ashley lives in the fast lane until a handyman invades her life and she's directing a Christmas play for underprivileged kids. She finds her soulmate and they might live happily-ever-after--unless her stepbrother gets her killed.
For Ainsworth, my standards were much higher than for the film. Any holiday film is going to be restricted by the parameters of the genre. For the actress, however, I was looking for signs of whether or not she could carry a film, and if she could score points for more than just avoiding the garden-variety acting mistakes which were absent in her performances on General Hospital, like in the scenes where she flourished, either by staring down an intimidating Bruce Weitz without saying a word, or by humbling soap vet Maurice Benard at the tender age of sixteen. Where other actresses would have cried, screamed, yelled, and moved their extremities like traffic cops, Ainsworth's instinctive understanding of when to let the scene do the talking strongly suggested she could handle this step up in class like a champion. My bigger question was whether director Richard Foster, and the writers, could handle her. On whole, I would say she gave the better accounting of herself.
This is a good, but not a great film. It is worth the purchase price, and will definitely be worth the time spent watching should it land on cable or Netflix, if only for Ainsworth's performance alone. In the film, eighteen year-old Ashley Lane (Ainsworth) is put in the position of media-res narrator, which allows her to showcase her talents. Within minutes, we are shown where the film winds up, leaving the question not what will happen, but why, who will be involved, and how. Casino was the textbook film on how to pull this off, and this film does so adequately. Fans who were wondering if Eric Roberts and Vivica A. Fox could sing will get their answer.
The film's saving grace, if one pardons the pun, is the director's astute use of third-billed Ainsworth, clearly the star of the film, with screen time to match. The lesser talents in the cast are relegated in direct proportion to their ability, except for Roberts, who is seriously underutilized. Fox gives a good accounting as the mother, but the blended family is more of a gratuitous political statement, as if to say we've come so far against racism that no one bats an eye at a racially mixed family. The message is useful, but not really central to the film. What is central is Ashley's journey of self-discovery, played flawlessly by Ainsworth, to the point where, by the end of the film, it Is rather clear she has outstripped the writing, and does not just belong in the majors, but needs to be traded to a championship team, or to have one built around her.
The other actors in the film are competent, with Danielle Vega (Angelina) giving an exceptional performance in a limited supporting role. Her physical resemblance to Ainsworth is a bit confusing, so pay attention; absent Ainsworth, she could have played the lead more than adequately, and her scenes were among the best of the film. Glee's Titus Makin (Jason) shows competence, but not greatness, while Fox and Roberts are not given enough to do until near the end. Bryan Massey (Mac) plays the "white Magical Negro," who assist the lead in her journey of self-discovery, a job on which the writers fell down a peg or two. Justin Avery (Jon) plays the romantic fodder, but is otherwise superfluous and stereotypical. Ainsworth is left stranded by the writing, not because the film is poorly written, but because of her amazing talent. There is only so much one can do with a film like this.
Very early on in the film, Ainsworth mows down the "movie star" checklist: flawless body language and voice tone, the ability to slip into character convincingly, a rare level of attention to detail, exceptional range which exceeded the writing, and a sexuality which, while not the typical "bombshell" variety, would leave one hard-pressed to find a man who would reject her, and which, even while front-and-center, is never gratuitous or crude. Surround her with top-shelf talent, and she can and will go anywhere in film, or in series television; perhaps ABC will reconsider Ainsworth and Jennifer Beals's pilot "Westside" on which they foolishly passed.
For all its many good points, the film needed a stronger compass, particularly with regard to what makes Ashley tick, and why she transformed into a good girl without much resistance, but these are minor plot issues that detract very little from an excellent performance in a decent film, one which could have ruined my afternoon off, leaving me feeling like I wasted my $14.98, but which definitely did not. I highly recommend this film. My primary question was answered: Lexi Ainsworth is more than capable of carrying a film. I look forward to her future work.
- Oct 3, 2013