Review: ‘A Little Crazy’

Debuting writer-director Jordan Ellis explores an unhinged American family, keeping the nuttiness as nuanced and muted as possible, and making the title, "A Little Crazy," subtly accent the diminutive. Except for a midway sequence that's a little too crazy for its own good, this indie is a good example of charged acting and creative use of video technique, deserving a solid fest run and specialized distrib handling.

Debuting writer-director Jordan Ellis explores an unhinged American family, keeping the nuttiness as nuanced and muted as possible, and making the title, “A Little Crazy,” subtly accent the diminutive. Script by Ellis and co-writer James Encinas, as well as the collaboration between Ellis and his smart cast, uncovers complexities that reach far beyond the narrative limits of the clan’s emergency weekend reunion. Except for a midway sequence that’s a little too crazy for its own good, this indie is a good example of charged acting and creative use of video technique, deserving a solid fest run and specialized distrib handling.

In a set-up straight out innumerable American stage plays, Theo’s (Jack Kerrigan) life is a mess: He’s just quit his job at an L.A. recording studio when he gets word from his mother (Sandra Seacat) that his father (Mitchell Edmonds) has accidentally shot himself while cleaning his pistol. Theo (rightly, it turns out) warns his wife Beth (Kim Gillingham) that it might not be the best thing for her to join him on his visit to his parents. She does, even though she may be pregnant.

Kerrigan’s deepened, worn eyes telegraph worry, since he already knows what Beth is about to find out — that his family is a beehive you don’t want to stick your hand in. Seacat’s mom is a woman who tries to cover over her problems by making lavish meals, and resorts to sessions with her spiritual advisor. Sister Jennifer (Alice Ellis) is newly unemployed and back living with the folks, making Theo look like a success story by comparison. Super-confident younger brother Darryl (Sasha Jenson), is a pro lecturer on positive thinking who delivers homilies rather than conversation.

In the film’s most interesting depiction, the character of the father is a bit lost in the swirl of all of these personalities, buried in the grief of his corporate layoff and the misery of living with his smothering wife. He’s the rare movie father figure who isn’t the object of ridicule or scorn, but rather of solemn empathy.

cript loses track of things after Theo has a blow-up with Beth and meets up with old pal Matt (Kirk Baltz) for an evening fling, but recovers for a resolution that does away with the expected kind of vituperative confrontation, and delivers an ending that may or may not be happy.

It appears the ensemble has done intensive homework on the various characters, coming through especially in how Kerrigan, Ellis and Jenson’s siblings resort to their childhood behavior patterns, with the superb Seacat as their over-reaching but never strident guide. Edmonds’ is a fine boil of a performance.

Vid production is at points show-offy, with a little split-screen here and slo-mo there, and also extremely assured, with Jeff Baustert’s intense lensing and Bobby Johnston’s admirably restrained music.

A Little Crazy

Production

A Paved Prods. presentation. Produced by Jordan Ellis, Alice Ellis. Directed by Jordan Ellis. Screenplay, Ellis, James Encinas.

Crew

Camera (color, video), Jeff Baustert; editor, Jon Vasquez; music, Bobby Johnston; sound, Erik Mangus; sound designer, Vasquez; associate producers, Vasquez, C.B. Ellis, JoAnn Ellis. Reviewed on videotape, L.A., April 24, 2003. (In Method Festival.) Running time: 81 MIN.

With

Jack Kerrigan, Kim Gillingham, Sandra Seacat, Mitchell Edmonds, Alice Ellis, Sasha Jenson, Kirk Baltz.
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