a review by Heith Carnahan
Curtis Clemins (Clint Palmer) is a wreck, and he's determined to go with a flourish. His ambitions as a filmmaker have cost him the love of his life (the lovely Wendy Buss), and his sensibilities as a casting director are throttled daily by his sadistically callous boss Maxine (Robin Ballard).
His struggle to reconcile his life with his faith has led him to believe he has neither, and when he begins spiralling downward at the Sundance Film Festival, he realizes once and for all that something's got to give.
With only a thousand dollars in his pocket and two very strange phone calls to his old drunk friend Kevin (Ryan Williams), Curtis makes a decision that shows us we all make choices, and the ones we make will define who we are, who we may become, and how we'll be remembered.
The Good News
Summing up a film like Abby Singer in a concise, Readers Digest way is an exercise in futility. Writer/director Ryan Williams has cobbled together, in fantastic fashion, a visually bewildering, temporally nightmarish gem of an indie film that would, in a perfect world, become the standard by which independent films are judged in the future. The laundry list of awards the film has earned is in itself intimidating, and the history surrounding the making of the film, the lengths to which the filmmakers were willing to go, and the laws they almost certainly broke in the process are indicative of the kind of passion even the most hardened and cynical moviegoer can't help but admire.
For those in the audience not attending film school, we're first treated to the knowledge that an Abby Singer is a film crew's nickname for the next to last shot of the day, although it's often communicated to the actors as the very last shot. But that's only where the metaphor begins; where it ends is left up to the audience. Curtis Clemins is that part of our psyche we don't want to admit exists; he's fragile, he's needy, and he's good at what he does, he just has no idea where life would take him if even one of his carefully-placed elementals was to take a tumble. And tumble it does -- his girlfriend Mabeline (maybe she's born with it) breaks it off for good in the middle of the Independent Spirit Awards, and Curtis goes to pieces.
His college buddy Kevin (Williams) isn't much better off. He's a soon-to-be-divorced, alcoholic acting instructor who claims to have given up on his dreams while simultaneously begging his students not to give up on theirs. He seems to be the very last person capable of pulling Curtis out from under the bell jar, but you'll soon discover that characters of this breadth and depth are not to be underestimated, and Williams doesn't let you forget that you are, for these 79 minutes, living in his world.
Clint Palmer delivers in grand fashion in Abby Singer. His Curtis Clemins is at once trustworthy and frighteningly unreliable, constantly keeping the audience guessing as to where his head is. Robin Ballard is extremely effective as Curtis's ferociously harrowing boss Maxine (we've all worked for her), and Pat Donahue stands out as Mr. Mooker, who refuses to give up a dream despite the odds.
The film also features cameo appearances by such favorites as Jake Gyllenhaal, Roger Ebert, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, Stockard Channing, Robin Tunney, Patricia Arquette, and more.
Also Of Note
You can visit the official Abby Singer web site at www.abbysingermovie.com for photos, cast and crew bios, soundtrack info, merchandise, and contact information.
Check out the Yahoo! Movies Abby Singer DVD Info page for price comparisons on the DVD, available today, July 24.
The Bottom Line
Accomplishment like this is not to be missed. You simply won't believe what came out of such a shoestring budget.
-- Heith Carnahan, heith @ movie-popcorn.com