Helmer Julie Rubio demonstrates an unsteady hand with shaping scenes, perfs and dialogue.
An eventful day for some Northern California teens is the focus of “Too Perfect,” writer-director Julie Rubio’s second feature. Pic reps an improvement over her first, the stilted neo-noir “Six Sex Scenes and a Murder,” and merits credit for avoiding obvious teen-pic cliches in favor of a more naturalistic presentation. Still, Rubio’s unsteady hand with shaping scenes, perfs and dialogue makes this unlikely to travel theatrically beyond its April 29 opening in Orinda, where the pic is set. Home-format prospects will be moderately brighter.It’s the last day of middle school for a group of longtime friends who are looking forward to summer — possibly their last together, since not all will attend the same high school — while some have more pressing concerns. Narrator Elijah (Elijah Stavena) fears his squabbling parents are about to divorce, while the thrill of a first kiss with Ashley (Tessa Hanson) is imperiled when her malicious ex-b.f. (Eric Schroeder) sends a text to classmates saying he saw them “sucking face.” Ashley’s junior-ladykiller stepbrother Jake (Jake Linares) frets about his ailing dog’s health; comic-relief chubby kid Skyler (Sam Lant) is worried about his mom, due back from the hospital after a round of chemotherapy. Most of the pic’s running time is spent after school, when the protags hang out downtown — downtown Orinda, that is (despite opening shots of the Golden Gate Bridge, no one here ever gets near Oakland, let alone San Francisco). Various chaste hookups occur, Elijah is chased by bullies, and a grandparent provides yet another note on the theme of mortality. Decently paced if often clumsy and on the nose, this story itself makes it to only the 55-minute mark. Thereafter, a slug-slow final credit crawl accompanied by bloopers featuring lots of giggling from the juve thesps — whose energies would have been better used in the body of the film, which finds them frequently stiff — push the pic barely to feature length. The fact that several of the thesps play characters with their own Christian names underlines “Too Perfect” as a glorified vanity project for suburban teens, possibly funded by their parents. Rubio has just enough good ideas to make auds wish she’d brought in a co-writer, or maybe even co-director, to hone them into a more professional shape. Tech aspects are decent if undistinguished. Soundtrack is crowded with OK rock cuts that help make the imperfect pic seem a little slicker than it is.