Philips Patton’s ‘Santa Cruzin’’ and Daniel Schechter’s ‘Supporting Characters’
The penultimate day of this year’s edition of the Santa Cruz Film Festival would eventually yield the strongest narrative feature I’ve seen in the festival—Supporting Characters—but before that happened, I had to patiently wait out Philips Patton’s harmless but aimless Santa Cruzin’.
The locally-produced documentary was preceded by Doug Lenox’s narrative short film, Local Tourists, a deadpan, pitch-black comedy about despair that features a trio of wry performances, including one from the fantastic Raúl Castillo (who you may know from Aaron Katz’s 2010 film, Cold Weather).
Meanwhile, Santa Cruzin’ follows five youngish friends, who are each attempting in his or her own way, to live a life without the burden of a job. The documentary turns out to be similar to its subjects—it wanders toward a vague idea of a goal but never quite reaches it, for one reason or another. And while it refuses to treat its subjects with a condescending tone, it reveals little insight about them.
Both Local Tourists and Santa Cruzin’ are more or less about people of a certain generation. The difference, is that while the characters in the former have already gotten all the hopes and desires trampled out of them, the subjects of the latter have sincere dreams—but lack the drive to see them through.
The evening was capped off with Daniel Schechter’s Supporting Characters, a comedic drama (or dramatic comedy) about New York film editing partners balancing their personal relationships while reworking a movie in crisis. As one might expect, the film is well-edited— not only with a comfortable pace and flow, but an intuitive sense of when a scene should begin and end, and an understanding of the beat of a conversation. The strengths don’t end there, however, with a pair of excellent performances from Alex Karpovsky (of HBO’s masterpiece-in-progress Girls) and Tarik Lowe (who co-wrote the script with Schechter). This movie about making movies is occasionally inside-baseball, but is perfectly accessible nonetheless. And despite its premise, Supporting Characters never falls prey to the easy trap of self-referentialism—it leaves those too-cute meta-winks on the cutting room floor.
For the complete Santa Cruz Film Festival schedule, visit santacruzfilmfestival.org.