In its dramatic tensions and forced conflicts, U.S. indie “The Crew” feels like an exercise in group dynamics rather than a fully worked out narrative. Well-intentioned but uneven tale of a pleasurable yacht cruise that turns into a nightmare might be of some interest to minor film festivals, though it lacks commercial potential.
Five young people go on what is expected to be a relaxing, enjoyable cruise in the Bahamas. The protagonist, Bill (Donal Logue), is still tormented by the suicide of his alcoholic mother (Grace Zabriskie), but he decides to join his wife, Jennifer (Pamela Gidley), on a yacht owned by her brother Phillip (Viggo Mortensen), an uptight yuppie lawyer. Phillip’s client Alex (John Phibin), a rock musician, and his “mysterious” date, Catherine (Sam Jenkins), round out the group.
The anticipated fun is all but dashed when the yacht is taken over by two stranded passengers whose boat caught on fire. They are Tim (Jeremy Sisto), a man who’s recently undergone a sex-change operation, and Camilla (Laura del Sol) , a Latina immigrant he’s smuggling into the U.S. to get cash to pay for his operation.
Though set outdoors, this over-baked melodrama has the brooding intensity and claustrophobic ambience of an intimate play. Indeed, the encounter with outsider Tim brings to the surface marital, familial and other tensions that make apparent the ugly biases of the more privileged characters. Central conflict is between the nasty, bigoted Phillip and “misunderstood deviant” Tim.
The blatantly preachy, poorly written group interaction is intercut with scenes of Tim phoning his lover, which will remind viewers of Sidney Lumet’s “Dog Day Afternoon.”
As constructed by writers Carl-Jan Colpaert and Lance Smith, the characters don’t communicate so much as scream at each other — the dialogue consists of brief scenes and nasty one-liners.
There are some truthful, compassionate moments between Bill and Tim, two outcasts, but they are contained in a schematic story that telegraphs its humanistic messages about tolerance for alternative lifestyles without subtlety.
Under Colpaert’s misguided direction, none of the actors, even the gifted Gidley, can build a coherent, let alone sympathetic character.
Mediocre technical credits make the pedestrian quality of “The Crew” all the more noticeable.