Review: ‘Surrogate Valentine’

Pic is fueled by no overriding visual style, relying completely on its actors' chemistry for momentum.

Odd-couple road movie “Surrogate Valentine” pairs a taciturn Asian-American singer-songwriter with the loudmouth TV actor hired to portray him. Shot in black-and-white on HD, Dave Boyle’s pic is fueled by no overriding visual style, relying completely on its actors’ chemistry for momentum. Unfortunately, the two strike no sparks. Real-life musician Goh Nakamura projects a certain sad-sack integrity, but if he were any more laid-back, he’d be comatose; meanwhile, Chadd Stoops channels Jim Carrey to unconvincing, monotonous effect. Unlike Boyle’s more caricatured, Asian-themed “White on Rice,” this low-key comedy seems unlikely to foment buzz. Producers plan a post-fest VOD release.

Goh (Nakamura, playing himself) and Danny (Stoops) travel from Los Angeles to Seattle, with stopovers for Nakamura’s real-life music gigs. Their trip proves resistant to Boyle’s attempt to superimpose a haphazard fiction about Danny playing Goh in a film; skinny chatterbox Danny’s actorly attempts to imitate a plump, Zen-like introvert feel more forced than suitably absurdist. Run-ins along the way, such as Goh’s reunion with old flame Rachel (an incongruously intelligent Lynn Chen), register flatly, yielding none of the usual road-movie bonuses involving weird detours and oddball encounters.

Surrogate Valentine

Production

A Tiger Industry Films, Brainwave Films production. (International sales: Tiger Industry Films, New York.) Produced by Duane Andersen, Dave Boyle. Executive producer, Gary Chou. Directed by Dave Boyle. Screenplay, Boyle, Joel Clark, Goh Nakamura.

Crew

Camera (B&W, HD), Bill Otto; editors, Duane Andersen, Boyle, Michael Lerman. Reviewed at Core Club, New York, March 8, 2011. (In SXSW Film Festival -- Emerging Visions; San Francisco Asian-American Film Festival.) Running time: 74 MIN.

With

Goh Nakamura, Chadd Stoops, Lynn Chen, Mary Cavett, Joy Osmanski, Parry Shen.

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