A taut character study about an interracial friendship that develops over time in a South- Central L.A. laundromat, “Next Time” proves impressive and absorbing despite an overly theatrical script and seemingly misguided performances. Arthouse distribution and cable TV rep distinct possibilities for this issue-oriented low-budgeter.
Yarn takes place in 1992, when 19-year-old Matt (Christian Campbell) arrives in L.A. from a small Midwestern town to realize his dream of becoming an artist. Matt, who’s white, chooses the cheapest apartment he can find, which is smack dab in the middle of mostly black South-Central.
Matt is so unschooled in the ways of L.A. life that he turns up in town without a vehicle, making journeys to the West Side and beaches rare. Needless to say, he’s unhappy.
Matt’s only enjoyment comes from his Saturday night outings to the laundromat , where he meets the other off-hour regular, Evelyn (Jonelle Allen). Evelyn is a single, middle-aged black mother who must take care of not only her own children , but also her children’s children.
Evelyn is down on her luck, and after feeling ambivalent about the out-of-place Matt, she takes a liking to him, and the two become close friends. The emptiness of their lives makes their weekly meetings the only thing that, for either of them, allows for catharsis or real dialogue.
Pic confronts racial and inner- city issues straight on. Taking place almost entirely within the confines of the laundry, tale relies upon dialogue to make its points and achieve its goals. Acceptance, drugs, violence, even the U.S.’ history of racial hatred are discussed by the characters. While the confrontational dialogue is a tad didactic, it’s refreshing to see an indie with something on its mind other than presenting an ultra-hip world in which hipsters try to do their thing.
Unfortunately, an obvious metaphor is used throughout the pic: Colors go in one machine, whites in the other; they’re never supposed to mix. Perhaps emphasizing this convenient theme-enhancer once would have been acceptable, but we’re constantly reminded of the similarities between laundry segregation and racial segregation, and it’s just silly after a while.
Pic is well acted, but it would seem that first-time helmer-scripter Alan Fraser needs to work on his direction of actors. Allen and Campbell take the juicy material and throw their hearts into their work, but they are awkwardly melodramatic at some points, which seems likely to be the result of uncertain guidance from the director. The material here is strong, so it doesn’t need all the exclamation points.
Pic concludes in an ambiguous, downbeat manner with the arrival of ’92’s L.A. riots and their effect on both the laundromat and pic’s central relationship.
Tech credits are strong, and Fraser shows some noteworthy skill in his ability to create a compelling feature that’s mostly confined to one, aesthetically unpleasant room.