You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sunset Stories

Diversity is the star of Ernesto M. Foronda and Silas Howard's "Sunset Stories," a deliberately nontraditional romantic comedy that embraces the sort of actors -- and characters -- typically marginalized by mainstream swooners.

Cast:
With: Nao Bustamante, Justin Vivian Bond, Monique Gabriela Curnen, Sung Kang, Mousa Kraish, Michelle Krusiec, Joshua Leonard, Jeffrey Licon, Zosia Mamet, Sandy Martin, Lee Meriweather, Meredith Scott Lynn, Andrea Sixtos.

Diversity is the star of Ernesto M. Foronda and Silas Howard’s “Sunset Stories,” a deliberately nontraditional romantic comedy that embraces the sort of actors — and characters — typically marginalized by mainstream swooners. Beyond the respect the pic pays people of color and its non-straight supporting characters, however, all that remains is a meandering indie about an unpleasant, tightly wound nurse (Monique Gabriela Curnen) who loses track of the bone marrow she’s transporting to Los Angeles, forcing her to get her hands dirty interacting with the city’s eccentric locals. Fest play should give this affable ensembler enough momentum for a modest release.

Introduced at Sundance in 2002, Foronda (co-scribe on “Better Luck Tomorrow”) and Howard (who helmed “By Hook or by Crook”) began a conversation that culminated in their making a different kind of film than the industry was seeking, one that wasn’t bound to a bunch of cookie-cutter white characters, but instead reflected the rich mix they saw around themselves. Presented as the realistic answer to fairy-tale romances, the contempo story begins with May (Curnen, who looks like a Latina version of Katie Holmes), still smarting from her breakup with Asian b.f. JP (Sung Kang).

May works in a children’s chemo ward, where she comforts the young patients with cheery platitudes. When one of the cancer victims (“Girls'” Zosia Mamet) rejects her implausibly cheery bedtime stories, May decides to share a personal incident instead, spinning a saga with an independent-minded female character that begins with her rejecting a potential Prince Charming. While glimpses of handcrafted animation suggest a fanciful aspect to May’s tale, the re-enactment is strictly real-world, revealing that the incident described is in fact a memory of a life-changing trip to Los Angeles.

Given a 24-hour window within which to deliver a cooler containing human tissue to a hospital in L.A., May flies from the East Coast to her old stomping grounds, promptly losing the package at the hotel where her ex happens to be performing. Once an aspiring rock star, JP now plays wedding gigs (and likes them). May, on the other hand, is pursuing her dream of becoming a nurse, but seems uncertain that she made the right decision with her life.

As written, May’s character poses a tricky challenge for the film. Her personality is shrill, uptight and overly controlling, made all the more off-putting by her lack of self-awareness, though Curnen ameliorates these prickly qualities by supplying her own intelligence and charm. When May’s cooler goes missing, she turns to JP for help, while the story instantly broadens out to involve all of the other characters who come in contact with the package over the course of the night.

While the chase itself is beside the point, the film relies on the cooler’s progress to justify the inclusion of a hipster hustler (Joshua Leonard); his cabaret-singing, gender-bending g.f. (Justin Vivian Bond); a butch old mechanic (Sandy Martin in a part written for a man); a talented graffiti tagger on the fence about art school (Andrea Sixtos); and a struggling actor reduced to Hollywood Boulevard costume play (Mousa Kraish). Of this crowd, only Sixtos’ character is fully developed, and yet, the group is eccentric enough to convey the helmers’ point that Los Angeles overflows with oddball personalities.

The pic further flatters the city with bright lensing and jaunty energy, though there’s a piecemeal quality to the assembly, in which the animation disappears early on, the music style is constantly changing and subplots involving side characters dead-end, unresolved. “Sunset Stories” does a fair job of capturing the joys and pains of life in L.A., but the marrow is definitely missing.

Sunset Stories

Production: A Plain View Pictures and Serena Films production presented in association with Cherry Sky Films and Yomyomf Films. Produced by Tatiana Kelly, Valerie Stadler. Executive producer, Justin Lin. Co-producers, Joan Huang, Jean Huang. Directed by Ernesto M. Foronda, Silas Howard. Screenplay, Foronda, Valerie Stadler.

Crew: Camera (color), PJ Raval; editors, Greg D'Auria, Cindy Thoennessen; music, Timo Chen, Sheri Ozecki; production designer, Laurel Frank; costume designer, Frank Helmer; sound, Adam Douglass; supervising sound mixer, Joe Dzuban; animated sequences, Geoff Palmer; associate producers, Tada Chae, Salvador Gatdula, Jimmy Tsai; assistant director, Joel Henry; casting, Brad Gilmore. Reviewed at Outfest, Los Angeles, July, 2012. (Also in SXSW Film Festival.) Running time: 83 MIN.

With: With: Nao Bustamante, Justin Vivian Bond, Monique Gabriela Curnen, Sung Kang, Mousa Kraish, Michelle Krusiec, Joshua Leonard, Jeffrey Licon, Zosia Mamet, Sandy Martin, Lee Meriweather, Meredith Scott Lynn, Andrea Sixtos.

More Film

  • Quentin Tarantino

    California Production Tax Credits to Go to Quentin Tarantino's New Movie

    Diversity is the star of Ernesto M. Foronda and Silas Howard’s “Sunset Stories,” a deliberately nontraditional romantic comedy that embraces the sort of actors — and characters — typically marginalized by mainstream swooners. Beyond the respect the pic pays people of color and its non-straight supporting characters, however, all that remains is a meandering indie […]

  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi

    'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Rules Social Media Buzz Ahead of Premiere

    Diversity is the star of Ernesto M. Foronda and Silas Howard’s “Sunset Stories,” a deliberately nontraditional romantic comedy that embraces the sort of actors — and characters — typically marginalized by mainstream swooners. Beyond the respect the pic pays people of color and its non-straight supporting characters, however, all that remains is a meandering indie […]

  • Nick Nolte Walk of Fame Honor

    Nick Nolte Reflects on What Acting's Meant for Him Ahead of Walk of Fame Honor

    Diversity is the star of Ernesto M. Foronda and Silas Howard’s “Sunset Stories,” a deliberately nontraditional romantic comedy that embraces the sort of actors — and characters — typically marginalized by mainstream swooners. Beyond the respect the pic pays people of color and its non-straight supporting characters, however, all that remains is a meandering indie […]

  • The Post

    Oscars: Steven Spielberg's 'The Post' Arrives With the Zeitgeist in Its Sights

    Diversity is the star of Ernesto M. Foronda and Silas Howard’s “Sunset Stories,” a deliberately nontraditional romantic comedy that embraces the sort of actors — and characters — typically marginalized by mainstream swooners. Beyond the respect the pic pays people of color and its non-straight supporting characters, however, all that remains is a meandering indie […]

  • Get Out

    'Get Out,' 'Detroit,' Issa Rae, Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige Among Top NAACP Image Award Nominees

    Diversity is the star of Ernesto M. Foronda and Silas Howard’s “Sunset Stories,” a deliberately nontraditional romantic comedy that embraces the sort of actors — and characters — typically marginalized by mainstream swooners. Beyond the respect the pic pays people of color and its non-straight supporting characters, however, all that remains is a meandering indie […]

  • Justice League Box Office: Film Comes

    Box Office: 'Justice League' Comes Up Short With $94 Million U.S. Debut

    Diversity is the star of Ernesto M. Foronda and Silas Howard’s “Sunset Stories,” a deliberately nontraditional romantic comedy that embraces the sort of actors — and characters — typically marginalized by mainstream swooners. Beyond the respect the pic pays people of color and its non-straight supporting characters, however, all that remains is a meandering indie […]

  • Fatih Akin and Diane Kruger'NDR Talkshow',

    German Director Fatih Akin Looks to Hometown Serial Killer for Next Film

    Diversity is the star of Ernesto M. Foronda and Silas Howard’s “Sunset Stories,” a deliberately nontraditional romantic comedy that embraces the sort of actors — and characters — typically marginalized by mainstream swooners. Beyond the respect the pic pays people of color and its non-straight supporting characters, however, all that remains is a meandering indie […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content