A genial deconstruction of cinematic storytelling conventions and cliches, “Pedestrian” reps a clever, witty debut by scripter-helmer Jason Kartalian. Though the comedy may be too mild overall to stir significant theatrical action, “Pedestrian” could have legs on video and will, at any rate, serve as a calling card for Kartalian and lead Jeffrey Stubblefield.
Pic’s deadpan style is evident from the get-go, when protag, in the process of being left by his exasperated girlfriend, states in voiceover that he hates films with voiceover narration. Young sad sack Marty (Stubblefield), who lives in L.A. sans auto, soon plunges into existential despair even deeper than his everyday despondency over his “sell-out job.”
The aspiring writer has been working on a comeback script for director Barry Barani (Krikor Satamian), a wearer of multiple gold chains whose production office resembles nothing so much as a shady investment boiler room, where “brokers” work the phones coercing the unsuspecting into writing big checks. Three months into the project, Barry excitedly tells Marty that he wants to scrap “Hot Pants Returns” for a bigger, better concept: “Supermodels 2000.”
But there’s triumph in adversity: Pressing through the general humiliation, writer’s block, the dark threats from Barry’s exec producer, Andy (Jerry Corley), and an instructive visit with his buddy (Joe Seely) to the apartment of a washed-up screenwriter, Marty begins a script for himself. His alter ego in the screenplay is a poetry-reading parking attendant whose life is changed by car-stealing vixen Lauren (Melissa Marie Lewis).
An hour into the proceedings, Lauren starts intruding on Marty’s life, urging him to increasingly daring acts. By the time Marty learns that Barry and Andy plan to eliminate him, he and Lauren are partners in crime, and script-within-script has merged with reality.
Pic effectively sends up such noirish types as the femme fatale, the struggling writer, the milquetoast and the sleazy businessman. With the help of his game cast, Kartalian maintains a buoyant tone throughout, never letting the self-referential, postmodern aspects of the script overwhelm the simple story.
As the neuroses-on-his-sleeve hero/dupe, the lanky Stubblefield has a low-key, offbeat charm that recalls Jeff Goldblum. His delivery and comic timing are spot-on, and his performance helps lift the material beyond mere cleverness by providing a rooting interest. Lewis plays up the bad-girl shtick with obvious relish, but also brings an unexpected sweetness to this paper doll.
Supporting cast is colorful and filled with familiar faces. Low-budget package is technically polished and assured, and Jim Lang’s multitextured music score heightens the sense of fun and, in key moments, the suspense.