A circle of Gothamite friends sweat through hitting the big three-o in "The New Twenty," a conventional ensembler that sacrifices depth for sheer busyness.

A circle of Gothamite friends sweat through hitting the big three-o in “The New Twenty,” a conventional ensembler that sacrifices depth for sheer busyness. As if taking a cue from Manhattan’s nonstop 24-hour pace, co-writer and director Chris Mason Johnson whizzes through his group of metrosexual/gay/Asian/dweeby young adults with little regard for interesting or revealing character details. A very likely pickup for an indie-oriented distrib, pic will deliver modest B.O. and so-so video dates.

With some slight tweaks, pic could just as likely stand as a TV pilot, particularly in the way Johnson and Ishmael Chawla’s script steadily jumps between characters and situations by regularly allotting two to four minutes for each scene. The formulaic nature of the project saps it of authenticity, that lived-in feeling that’s perpetually beyond the movie’s grasp.

Seven years after the end of college, the group is already starting to fracture, some of it along the lines of those who’s been successful — like Julie (Nicole Bilderback) and her fiance, Andrew (Ryan Locke) — and those who definitely haven’t, like Felix (Thomas Sadoski) and Ben (Colin Fickes), with Julie’s younger gay brother, Tony (Andrew Wei Lin), somewhere in the middle. Julie jokes about constantly getting promoted at her investment firm, but Andrew more seriously hopes to launch his own biz. Felix is hooked on heroin, while Ben seems to be settling into permanent couch potato-hood.

Julie and Andrew appear to be in love, but as Andrew latches onto the prospects offered by Louie (Terry Serpico), an uber-Alpha male and foul-mouthed venture capitalist (there apparently being no other kind), the relationship frays. While money can’t buy these two love, Felix is trying his feeble hand with Lucy (Cordelia Reynolds), but other than rolling around in bed, these two don’t seem to have much going on.

As Andrew tries to jumpstart his business — what it is exactly is never explained — Tony meets college prof Robert (Hal Hartley vet Bill Sage) and unexpectedly falls in love, though the fact that Robert is HIV-positive makes him a bit antsy. Ben remains Ben, a lonely, overweight gay nerd, pathetically hoping Andrew will give him a sales job and meandering around his apartment between the sofa and his computer.

Amid all this, these characters remain stubbornly at a distance, concepts rather than fully realized New Yorkers with distinctive details and memorable inner (or outer) lives. Pic seems more concerned with just getting through to the other end of whatever minor or major crisis arises.

Johnson’s cast thus has its work cut out for itself. On one hand, these are familiar enough folks in any American big city, almost prototypes of the maturing iPod generation. On the other, each is vaguely drawn, so the actors keep trying to make them jump out onscreen. The only one who comes close is Locke, mainly because so much revolves around his character Andrew, who’s forced to realize he may not be the nice guy he thought he was.

Like other similarly themed films, pic is also confused about moneymaking, knowing that wealth brings pleasures, yet sympathetic to the poor bohemians who can’t rub two pennies together.

Oddly, in the context of “The New Twenty’s” run at gay and lesbian fests, the gay characters come off as much thinner and less compelling than their hetero counterparts. Production package is fair, with a few art-direction details (such as Jeff Koons’ sculptures) tossed in for au courant flavor.

The New Twenty

Production

A Serious Prods. presentation. Produced by Aina Abiodun, Chris Mason Johnson. Executive producers, Laura Heberton, Colin Stewart. Co-producer, Andrew Troy. Directed by Chris Mason Johnson. Screenplay, Ishmael Chawla, Johnson.

Crew

Camera (DuArt color), David Tumblety; editors, Todd Holmes, Adam Raponi; music, Jeff Toyne; music supervisors, Brian Meiler, Adam Raponi; production designer, Gregory Kenney; art director, Marco Cousins; set decorator, Michele Munoz; costume designer, Anne Kenney; sound (stereo), Mike Guarino, Jack Hutson; supervising sound editor, Jon Greasley; re-recording mixers, Andrew Troy, Greasley; associate producers, Tim Edwards, Daniel Marks, Aidan Sleeper, Laurie Smith, Chip Young; assistant director, Archie Hernandez; casting, Stephen Vincent, Sig De Miguel. Reviewed at Outfest, Los Angeles, July 15, 2008. Running time: 91 MIN.

With

Nicole Bilderback, Colin Fickes, Andrew Wei Lin, Ryan Locke, Thomas Sadoski, Karen Olivo, Cordelia Reynolds, Bill Sage, Terry Serpico, Larry Pine. (English, Russian dialogue)
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