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The Great Unpleasantness

There's nothing new in Dorne M. Pentes' "The Great Unpleasantness," a naive, simple-minded melodrama about youth angst and alienation. Despite impressive acting by the two leads, overly familiar concept and unexciting direction should confine this indie to minor film festivals and possibly video.

There’s nothing new in Dorne M. Pentes’ “The Great Unpleasantness,” a naive, simple-minded melodrama about youth angst and alienation. Despite impressive acting by the two leads, overly familiar concept and unexciting direction should confine this indie to minor film festivals and possibly video.

Set in a large Southern city, story concerns Errol (Peter Carrs), an angry young man estranged from his divorced parents and living in a run-down building with his g.f. Isabel (Collyn Gaffney). The two lovers make a scrappy living, taking odd jobs and committing petty burglary, and socialize with their feuding gay neighbors and friend Darla (Paige Johnston), who is married to an abusive husband. Together, they form some kind of communal bond, one that proves helpful in fighting their eviction.

Regrettably, Pentes’ melodrama is not only commonplace but contrived. The building where they live belongs to Errol’s greedy capitalist father (C.K. Chuck Bibby), a modern symbol of the old, exploitive plantation owner. And after years of estrangement, Errol’s mother (Elizabeth Orr) suddenly shows up at the restaurant where he works.

For the most part, the writing is bland and immature — almost every scene tends to end in yelling and screaming. The small arguments and fights lead to the ultimate confrontation between irresponsible father and long-suffering son. Close to physically beating his dad, Errol’s anger and frustration is disappointingly articulated in the charge, “Are you more interested in money or soul?” which is repeated over and over again.

In this context, the hopeful resolution is enigmatic: After endless bickering and mutual accusations, the lovers are seen walking together toward the horizon. Overall, pic suffers from simplistic psychology about intergenerational conflict and parents’ damaging effects on their children.

Pentes shows talent and facility in handling his young actors. As the couple, Peter Carrs and Collyn Gaffeny are always credible, bringing much-needed energy and liveliness to their pedestrian roles. But their work is surrounded with mediocre, colorless performances, particularly by Bibby and Orr, who seem to act completely from the outside.

The Great Unpleasantness

(Melodrama -- Color -- 16mm)

  • Production: A Crescent Pictures production. Produced by Wendy Fishman. Directed, written, edited by Dorne M. Pentes.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Mick McNeely; music, Jake Berger, Buzzov-en, Pervis Lee; production design, Dominic Masters; art direction, Jim Gloster; Sound, Jack Rainsford; casting, Linda Newcomb, Vinnie Woods. Reviewed at AFI screening room, L.A., June 18, 1993 (In AFI/L.A. Intl. Film Festival). Running time 77 min.
  • With: Errol ... Peter Carrs Isabel ... Collyn Gaffney Parks ... C.K. (Chuck) Bibby Sally ... Elizabeth Orr Darla ... Paige Johnston Johnny ... Jim Gloster
  • Music By: