The stresses of post-collegiate are glibly unconvincing in “Stealing Time,” a nervous account of four financially and emotionally frustrated grads in Los Angeles who give in to temptation and rob a bank. Tyro director Marc Fusco, having cut his Hollywood teeth as Steven Spielberg’s personal assistant, struggles to rise above the usual tropes of the heist subgenre with stylistic gestures, but the more his and co-writer Michael Garrity’s script aims for cleverness, the more it unravels. Flawed even as a showcase for a gaggle of young Hollywood thesps on the rise, pic’s limited theatrical spin precedes better chances in video.
With Alec (Peter Facinelli) as a persistently intrusive narrator, action starts in overdrive as thieves are seen dashing away from the crime scene, but promptly shifts back to school days at the University of Oregon, where Alec and pals — including socially committed, Mexico-bound Samantha (Charlotte Ayanna), acting student Trevor (Ethan Embry) and nice-guy Casey (Scott Foley) — are finishing their four year academic stint.
As pic shifts back and forth between the four characters, each is shown forced to lower their expectations a year after a graduation. Now, Samantha’s only tie with Mexico is waiting tables at a Salt Lake City Mexican restaurant while living with ingrate b.f. Larry (Gabriel Olds). Jobless Trevor lives in Los Angeles with Alec, who works for monstrous agent-boss Roselyn Hatchet (Debra Christofferson). And, Casey, a high school soccer coach, decides to drive to Los Angeles for mysterious reasons. Quicker than you can say “mid-20s crisis,” Samantha leaves Larry and joins Casey for the trip and the old group is reunited under the same roof.
Struck by crippling dizzy spells, Alec learns that he has an inoperable brain tumor, at which point the movie could turn in several directions. Fusco and Garrity choose to go in various different directions at once, which lends everything a strangely schizoid feeling. In response to his prognosis, Alec starts throwing caution to the wind, impulsively holding up a convenience store and being bluntly honest with his friends. All of their failures, though, from Samantha’s inability to help immigrants in her new social worker job to Trevor’s failed auditions, do not seem real but come off merely as plot contrivances.
Well past midpoint, Alec suggests a robbery, and, quite against character, the group members warm to the idea. But before that plot can develop, another subplot is introduced involving Casey and his former lover Kiley (Jennifer Garner).
Heist in downtown bank is moderately tense although not in the league of a “Killing Zoe.” When a seemingly tragic denouement is turned on its face by screenwriting trickery, all of “Stealing Time” feels like something of a con.
Facinelli — already in danger of being typecast as the terminally callow, slicked-back dude — plays that part again. Foley does a variation on his nice guy role in “Felicity,” and Ayanna never convinces as a social idealist. As the struggling actor, Embry undoubtedly, and nicely, draws from personal experience. Most of the support, from Christofferson to Paul Dooley’s sweaty redneck, doesn’t rise above being stereotypical.
For a budget-crunched project by new filmmakers, pic looks and sounds good, helped by being lensed in 35mm instead of video. Joey Newman’s score contains far too many echoes and touches from his composer cousins, particularly Thomas. Fusco and Garrity mentors Spielberg and Mimi Leder are either mentioned in the dialogue or referenced, as when Samantha is seen perusing “Catch Me If You Can.”