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Last Goodbye

In ambition, scope and aesthetic, pic plays like an Atlanta-set "Magnolia," with four intertwined stories vying in nihilistic intensity and despair. Through sheer momentum of brilliantly timed editing, tyro writer/helmer Jacob Gentry almost pulls off his multi-stranded tapestry. Visual pyrotechnics and hip score could propel it onto indie screens.

With:
With: Clementine Ford, Chris Rydell, Liam O'Neill, Sara Stanton, Faye Dunaway, David Carradine, Chad McNight, Maggie Blye.

In ambition, scope and aesthetic, “Last Goodbye” plays like an Atlanta-set “Magnolia,” with four intertwined stories vying in nihilistic intensity and despair. Through the sheer momentum of brilliantly timed editing, tyro writer/helmer Jacob Gentry almost pulls off his multi-stranded tapestry of emotional meltdowns. But an inexperienced cast, all offspring of Hollywood celebs, cannot temper script’s false notes or give weight and depth to pic’s flashy histrionics. Even parent stars Faye Dunaway and David Carradine give over-the-top lessons in hyper-reality. Film’s visual pyrotechnics and hip score by Altruistic could propel it onto indie screens, but “Goodbye” will more likely rock cable.

All the characters are encountered in mid-crisis, precipitated by two now-famous locals — Agnes (Clementine Ford, daughter of Cybill Shepherd) and Peter (Liam O’Neill, son of Faye Dunaway) –returning to Atlanta.

Agnes, an actress on a popular TV show, serves as lynchpin for the intersecting plots. As pic leap-frogs in time and space, Agnes’ relationship to the other players is slowly revealed, while, to further layer the proceedings, extended excerpts from her vampire series “Southern Gothic” (inexplicably letterboxed to look like scope) irregularly punctuate the action.

Agnes’ rocky romantic liaison with Peter, lead vocalist of a successful rock band returned to Atlanta for a big hometown concert, furnishes the fodder for a couple of avid gossipmongers who are interviewing Agnes for a local TV station.

Peter, in turn, when not howling in artistic outrage over a TV censor’s proposed lyric change, is shtupping teenybopper Jen (Sara Stanton, niece of Harry Dean).

Meanwhile, Agnes has her hands full with a messianic woman director (Dunaway) intent on liberating Agnes’ inner self via liquor and flattery in equal parts. Scene, which has Dunaway playing Svengali to Ford’s obstinately wooden Trilby, serves only to point out the shallowness of Ford’s acting reserves (but then again Dunaway may simply be casting for a porn film).

The one character who seems unrelated to the surrounding glitterati-heavy hoopla is Roland (Chris Rydell, son of helmer Mark Rydell), a drunken office worker who stumbles through the movie like a ghost (as perhaps he is, having been run over by a car in the first scene).

Helmer Gentry freely laces his high-strung P.T. Anderson-type dramatics with liberal doses of David Lynch-type, “Mulholland Drive”-style dreamfalls through spatio-temporal rabbit holes, mainly vehicled by Roland.

Roland not only falls in love with a photo of Jen on her father’s desk, but also saves her life with the help of an evangelical, inebriated, and possibly merely hallucinated David Carradine.

Thesping is certainly not pic’s strong point, though Chris Rydell acquits himself well in the hapless role of Roland. Cast, which reads like a begat-filled chapter of the Hollywood bible, also features Chad McKnight (Harry Dean Stanton’s nephew), Dominik Garcia-Lorido (daughter of Andy Garcia), Alex A. Quinn (son of Anthony) and Kansas Carradine (daughter of David).

Gentry, doubling as his own editor, interweaves his stories with a sure touch, culminating in a long crescendo of escalating angst that cannot quite disguise pic’s threadbare content.

Inventive 24p lensing by Thomas Bingham flirts with high contrast and underlighting to interesting effect. Music by Atlanta band Altruistic furnishes some much-needed authenticity to the rock-group plot while greatly plussing Ben Lovett’s already proficient score. All Atlanta-based tech credits are ace.

Last Goodbye

Production: A POPFilms production. Produced by Alexander Motlagh, Cassandra Gava. Directed, written, edited by Jacob Gentry, inspired by the novel "Last Goodbye From Way Down Here" by Patrick Kaye.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Thomas Bingham; music, Ben Lovett. Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival (Showcase), May 6, 2004. Running time: 95 MIN.

With: With: Clementine Ford, Chris Rydell, Liam O'Neill, Sara Stanton, Faye Dunaway, David Carradine, Chad McNight, Maggie Blye.

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