Review: ‘Pretty in the Face’

A boy suffering from too much poundage and a young woman chafing from too little love rivet the attention of one-man-band filmmaker Nate Meyer in his debut, "Pretty in the Face."

A boy suffering from too much poundage and a young woman chafing from too little love rivet the attention of one-man-band filmmaker Nate Meyer in his impressive, ultra-low-budget debut, “Pretty in the Face.” Meyer seemingly did every job (including chief bottle washer) in vid-shot feature which is a fine example of what indie film supporters dream about — a personal film style, solid script, authentic emotional drive and seldom explored themes. Solid play in regional fests is reason enough for distribs to pay attention, though no-name cast and glum subject matter will doubtless keep them wary, with vid sale most likely.

Meyer wastes no time intercutting the daily lives of paint-your-own ceramic store clerk Maggie (Meagan Moses) and overweight kid Daniel (David Reynolds).

Maggie looks on with barely concealed envy as a bride-to-be’s bachelorette party gathers in her store to paint dishes for the wedding party. Meanwhile, Daniel watches his buddy’s porn stash.

Connection between the two is gradually made apparent when Daniel’s mother Kathy (Theresa Dyer) — who is even more seriously overweight than he is — turns up at the ceramics shop to ask Maggie a favor: Have her current b.f. Ethan (Nathan Amadon), who is alsoDaniel’s uncle, talk to the boy as a needed father figure.

This is easier said than done, since Ethan is visibly bored with Maggie and barely gives her a moment’s attention; his aloofness makes her seem fairly pathetic when she asks him if she really is as boring as she suspects she is.

Ethan also is the coach of Daniel’s soccer team, but he never lets the lumbering, ungainly kid play in the matches, and Daniel’s misery is only compounded by his embarrassment when mom drops by for the games.

Meyer’s determined focus on both Maggie and Daniel turns the tables on most conventional pics, which would position such characters in minor supporting roles; here, as in all lives, they are the heroes of their own stories.

Meyer’s script manages to find interesting ways to push these theoretically static folks to the next level. Just as she’s moved into her own apartment and ready for a hot night with Ethan, Maggie makes the painful discovery that he’s cheated on her with another woman (actually, inept lead singer Nicole — played smartly by Morgan Mosher — in Ethan’s dreadful garage band).

Daniel’s sad catalyst is Kathy, who finally succumbs to her obese condition and collapses outside their house. Once he sees his mom in a hospital bed, the boy vents, convinced that his mom has decided to give up and remain immobile. This scene — and others connected to it — strikes a chord and confronts the problem of obesity, which is a virtual American epidemic, yet is seldom addressed in American movies.

This is a particularly actor-driven film with a fine ensemble of thesps who know their characters inside and out, with Reynolds and Moses’ strengths for low-key naturalism a real plus. Amadon, Dyer, Mosher and Maureen Butler as Patti provide superlative support.

Meyer’s handling of no less than six jobs offers a fresh angle on realist filmmaking in the vid age.

Pretty in the Face

Production

A Nate Meyer Prods. presentation. Produced, directed, written, edited by Meyer.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Meyer; music, Michael McInnis; songs, Louis Schefano; sound (stereo), Meyer; sound re-recording mixers, McInnis. Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, July 12, 2007. (In Dances With Films, SXSW film festivals.) Running time: 92 MIN.

With

David Reynolds, Meagan Moses, Nathan Amadon, Theresa Dyer, Morgan Mosher, Maureen Butler, Andrew Harris, Chaney Burlin, Dave Gebroe, Brendon Bates, JP Guimont.
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