Even if its digital video image isn’t crisp, the planning and execution of “Outcasts” certainly are. Tyro filmmaker and co-star Johnny Asuncion’s pic has a casual, likable tone, and is several shades more nuanced than your average no-budgeter about young people searching for themselves. Indie fest dates should follow, with an outside chance of specialized theatrical slots.
Pic follows several young Angelenos whose lives are primed for change. Painter Marlon (Daniel Rhyder) is engaged to Kim (Sandra Facemire), but seems vaguely unsure about not only tying the knot, but even his own sexual direction. His wall is covered with clippings of bodybuilding torsos, a funny altar to hyper-masculinity to which the wiry Marlon vainly aspires. Roomie Donny (Asuncion) is a super-cocky Filipino guy whose janitor job is a whole lot humbler than he is, and whose own masculine model is the American cowboy.
Fresh out of prison for an undisclosed crime, Sal (Rob Naples) is a meek sort who makes do with a room in a downtown hotel and a new job working under Donny, who “trains” Sal as if janitor work were a high-tech operation. As Sal is brought into Donny’s world, the network of characters begins to intersect: Sal comes into contact with Nina (Annett Culp), whose New Age tendencies may or may not indicate a clash of temperaments; Donny is attracted to Kim’s friend Shayne (Bronwyn Cornelius), who ends up being far less than the sum of her parts; Marlon is so rattled by suggestions he may be gay that he dumps the wedding plans — and seems to come out of the closet.
Even more interesting is how the character arcs are left open to speculation. Marlon, for instance, may not be gay, just emotionally more confused than most guys who are about to marry. And though Sal’s self-destructive habit of perusing legal files while he should be cleaning floors appears obsessive, it feels paradoxically real under the matter-of-fact gaze of Asuncion’s camera.
Pic’s source as a project for Asuncion and fellow thesps shows in the roster of well-considered perfs, with helmer stepping in front of the camera in a fresh, crowd-pleasing depiction of a young Filipino trying too hard — and failing — to assimilate Stateside. Pic could look and sound much better, but Jeff Lorch’s (who also lensed) and co-star Naples’ editing heightens the human comedy at every stretch.