Three L.A. femme friends approach the age of 30 in various stages of not-so-quiet desperation in Linda Kandel’s “Mascara,” a reasonably well-acted but thoroughly inconsequential comedy-drama. The comic bits aren’t fresh or funny enough, and the dramatic stuff is neither especially compelling nor altogether convincing. After token theatrical exposure, pic may generate limited interest in pay cable and homevideo venues.
Ione Skye — looking here like she’s ready to audition for “The Monica Lewinski Story” — is the best known of the three leads. She plays Rebecca, an aimless free spirit who drifts from job to job, and usually chooses older men as lovers.
Right from the start, it’s fairly clear she’s looking for a father figure, but “Mascara” isn’t the sort of pic that trusts ticket buyers to figure this out for themselves. So Kandel includes a lunch scene in which Rebecca’s Aunt Eloise (a nice cameo by Karen Black) announces the obvious.
Rebecca doesn’t have an easy time of it: She’s still bummed out about her mother’s long-ago suicide, and she can’t help noticing that her middle-aged photographer boyfriend (Steve Jones) can’t take his eyes off his nubile teen daughter (Tara Subkoff). Still, Rebecca’s doing much better than her two best friends.
After only seven months of marriage, Laura (Lumi Cavazos of “Like Water for Chocolate”) is separated from her husband, Donnie (Steve Schub), a charge-card addict who’s ruining her credit rating. She receives little comfort from her uptightly traditional parents and barely manages to continue working as a therapist.
Jennifer (Amanda de Cadenet) is in even worse shape. Alienated from her laywer husband (Barry Del Sherman), whom she can’t forgive for a brief infidelity, she has a series of meaningless sexual interludes with acquaintances and total strangers.
“Mascara” lurches into discomforting melodrama when Jennifer picks up the wrong man and is slapped around during a bout of rough sex. The ambiguous scene (does she really want to be punished?) might be more effective if Jennifer weren’t presented as such an unpleasant character throughout the rest of the pic.
In terms of structure, “Mascara” vacillates between the contrived and the haphazard. Kandel hard-sells a few simple truths, predictably wrapping up everything with a childbirth scene. There is a surprising amount of nudity and causal sex in the pic, which should ensure its popularity with certain kinds of video renters and Web surfers.
Occasionally, the characters trip over the long arm of coincidence in ways that are meant to be comical. At one point, Rebecca checks out an acting workshop, strikes up a conversation with a friendly guy, Andrew (Corey Page), and brings him back to her apartment. After they make love, however, Rebecca receives an unexpected visit from Nick — who just happens to be Andrew’s father. A nasty scene ensues. But the slapstick is too silly by half.
Despite all of that, performances by the three female leads are first-rate, and supporting players are more than competent.
On the technical/editorial side, Kandel tries to manufacture a sense of urgency for several scenes by indulging in far too much handheld camerawork. Other tech credits are average for a small-budget indie.