Winner of the AFI fest’s inaugural indie prize, “Cost of Living” is a tale of marginals caught in a dying fishing village. Chiefly interesting for the performances of the lead actors, pic will be a tough commercial sale due to the insularity of its story. It could score limited theatrical activity in upscale markets but will have to eke by mainly on revenue from TV and video.
Like Oliver Stone’s recent “U-Turn,” this picture tells of a drifter who wanders into a small town and gets stuck a lot longer than anticipated. Billie (Edie Falco) enters story resplendent on a motorcycle, which she promptly ditches in the ocean. She quickly coerces a man out of his car and moves on, but comes to rest when it’s hit and ruined.
Unable to collect from the other driver (Andrew Lowery), she winds up taking odd jobs and camping out with a sympathetic local (Caitlin Clarke). Stuck in the dead-end town, the woman finds her past catching up with her.
It’s apparent from the outset that Billie is addicted to scamming. But script by Ed and Steve Schmidt provides little more than cursory detail of her prior sins or future prospects. Ultimately, the tale is about stasis, and while that produces a thoughtful and reflective quality, it undoes much of the picture’s initial momentum.
Director Steve Schmidt founders in creating a sustained mood. At first, “Cost of Living” suggests something aspiring to comic observation, but it bogs down in darkness and gloom. Falco somehow rises above it all, fleshing out Billie’s odd combination of strength, desperation and vulnerability. Also memorable is James Villemaire as a man finally crushed by his infatuation with the stranger.
Produced on a shoestring, item has passable tech credits, managing to convey the bleak environment and the dour nature of the material.