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Grinders

"Grinders" keeps patting itself on the back for being so gosh-darn weird, but no laughs come out -- just that familiar belch of lamely "quirky" U.S. indie comedy. A decent no-budget tech achievement sans any content worth noting, pic is its own grind, and prospects look equally downbeat.

Cast:
Venison ... Daniel Passer Sally ... Ann Clayton Sal ... Todd Simmons Puree ... Sarah DeVincentis

“Grinders” keeps patting itself on the back for being so gosh-darn weird, but no laughs come out — just that familiar belch of lamely “quirky” U.S. indie comedy. A decent no-budget tech achievement sans any content worth noting, pic is its own grind, and prospects look equally downbeat.

Garth Brooks dress-alike and would-be scenarist Sal (Todd Simmons) and rhythm-free “rapper” Sally (Ann Clayton) are a platonically married couple — or are they siblings? Another young duo, actual sibs Venison (Daniel Passer) and Puree (Sarah DeVincentis), show up to window-peep for arcane reasons. Venison, too, is an aspiring film writer. But his 40 scripts have gone unproduced by choice — he’s such a suffering-artist type he desires fame only posthumously.

Sally volunteers to read the full stack. If she considers them “worth dying for,” hot-tempered Sal and surly sis Puree will gladly honor Venison’s wish, ending his life for the sake of instant artistic “posterity.” Yet fellow sensitive soul Sally’s kindred feelings soon get in the way of this plan. Puree and Sal, meanwhile, also discover mutual attraction.

Premise could conceivably have eked some black-comedic riffs from the tortured-artist postures, if writer-director Gary Ellenberg’s own attempts at hipster wit ever rose above the inane. Characters are “eccentric” in dully contrived ways that refuse to turn funny or interesting, despite thesps’ OK efforts. Film does have a bright look, thanks to colorful lensing and production design, and soundtrack is busy (including one MTV-like interlude with DeVincentis singing an original tune atop her skateboard).

“Grinders” is a poorly written comedy about fledgling filmmakers who can’t write a decent screenplay, and thereby stands as an ironically existential joke on itself.

Grinders

Production: An Itchy Yellow House presentation. Produced by Sean Fenton, Gary Ellenberg. Executive producers, Alexander H. Ellenberg, Maureen Ellenberg Directed, written by Gary Ellenberg.

Crew: Camera (color, 16mm), Matthew J. Libatique; editor, John Wolfenden; music, Steven Lester; production design, costumes, Michelle Spears; sound (Dolby), Steve Tibbo; associate producers, Jackie Hudson, Kris Gilbert. Reviewed on videocassette, San Francisco, Jan. 23, 1996. (In Cinequest, San Jose Film Festival.) Running time: 85 MIN.

With: Venison ... Daniel Passer Sally ... Ann Clayton Sal ... Todd Simmons Puree ... Sarah DeVincentis

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