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The kind of discovery that "won't go quietly" and feeds one's love of films.
I like to put it this way: "It's a Mongillo!" You see, the great thing about "a Mongillo," or as the film credits would read "A Mongillo Conspiracy," is that you can't pin his work down. His works are never the same type of thing and no matter the genre, you can't predict the outcome (meaning, you can't guess how the film will end). And as always, great music to suit the creation. That's why I'm rating DIANE a 10. Sure, indie projects may not have the slickness of big budget studio productions, but the rough edges actually give the film a more raw feeling that draw me in. You don't have to be a product of Big Hollywood to rate a 10. I was fully entertained and invested in the story. I cared about where the direction could possibly go. For me that's a sign of a successful project.
The film opens with what appears to be a sultry lounge performance by Diane that would have made the management of The Slow Club proud (you know the place, it's a Lynchian thing). It's a nice song, yet something doesn't feel right. Just a tad uncomfortable. "I won't go quietly," she sings. The colors are deep and warm. Then BAM. It's like someone goes to the window, opens the curtains, and you get a blast of light when you're not fully awake yet. The instant saturated visuals jolt you into sitting up and demanding your full attention. Get as comfortable as you can, because you can't shade your eyes for the next hour and 20 minutes. I liked that. Once again, I know I'm going to be surprised. Because, well, "It's a Mongillo!"
Disabled war vet Steve (Jason Alan Smith) pretty much keeps to himself, tinkering with and fixing gadgets like generators for extra money. At first he appears the quiet introspective type, sometimes not so easy to befriend. We learn he's been through enough and seen enough during his tour of duty, leaving him not so social. So, what to do when he finds the dead body of a local singer named DIANE (Carlee Avers) in his back yard? First thing Steve does is take a picture of her with his phone (now there's a thing I'd never thought I'd ever say in my life "take a picture with his phone," that seemed so sci-fi when I was young). I didn't think anything of that, figuring he'd taken the picture to show the cops exactly how he found her. But this is a film, and you know that this action will be an important factor to the story. Throughout the film Steve experiences nightmares and hallucinations -- or are they? -- while other characters add to the mystery. A bully of a neighbor and his equally jerky friend, along with a two mean-spirited detectives not only make Steve's life more inconvenient, but also help to bring more clues to solving what happened to Diane.
Detective Phillips and Bernard (Margaret Rose Champagne and Dick Boland) sure do seem harsh to Steve, but then I thought back to an incident nearly 30 years ago where I was dragged into an investigation (of a stolen VCR!) and had two detectives sneering and talking the way Phillips and Bernard were. It was all for naught of course, they just figured because I looked like a hippie and they had nothing else to go on, by interrogating me they looked like they were busy guys. I actually sat and laughed while they threw a manila folder on the table marked "Todd -- Robbery" and it was obviously overstuffed with blank typing paper. But they were so dramatic. So trust me, the way these detectives go at it in DIANE is not an exaggeration.
I thoroughly enjoyed the interactions, particularly when one of the detectives said Steve must be pretty cozy with his life, inheriting his house and getting disability checks. Steve simply stated how it took the loss of his parents and the use of his leg to be that cozy. Smooth! And despite Steve's lack of positivity, Jason Smith delivers the lines and tone just right. We learn quite a lot more about Diane as well, toying with our perceptions of what and who you expect her to be.
I've been asked is it "theatre-worthy" and worthy of my really high rating though it has a low budget. Just because a film may have budget limitations, that doesn't mean the film will look strongly flawed nor does it mean it won't have an engaging story. Of course each person will vary in opinion. Just this past year alone I was amazed at how another director/writer/actor Daniel Falicki managed to come up with some deep philosophical work and ideas within his micro-budgeted films ACCIDENTAL EXORCIST and THE LAST VAMPYRE. And I mean very micro-budgeted, but the films held my rapt attention. DIANE grabbed my interest; I wanted to know who this woman was and just what the hell was going on with Steve. All the little parts do add up nicely. If I were Steve, I would not have done what he does at the end but that just says something about ME and my own sense of survival. So again, I was pleased to see they went with something I had not expected. Of course they did, because "It's a Mongillo!"
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