Like a homegrown “Once,” Todd Giglio’s and Christopher Springer’s freshman outing concerns a pair of musicians whose yet-to-be-appreciated onscreen song collaborations fill the soundtrack. But instead of a comely young romantic couple, “Drawing With Chalk” presents two aging buddies (played by the filmmakers themselves) who reunite in bucolic upstate New York for a last-ditch stab at the artistic glory that eluded them 20 years earlier. With little at stake, pic coasts on familiar sentimental tropes with a hint of nostalgia for youthful ambitions, though its wistful complacency could play well in ancillary after a limited New York theatrical run.
“Chalk” takes the adage that one should film what one knows to considerable extremes: Giglio and Springer are themselves longtime pals whose acting careers never quite panned out, and the film represents their last chance to fulfill their dreams. Director/co-scripter Giglio plays guitar in the band that supplies the film’s omnipresent score. Producer/co-scripter Springer proves less comfortable in his assumed drummer guise, and the scenes in which the two brainstorm their music, while casually laid-back, come off as barely more convincing than the hokey song-creation myths of old-time tunesmith biopics.
The music grounds the lead characters’ aspirations in a collective creative process that contrasts nicely with the surrounding domestic conformity, but falls short of establishing an aesthetic on a par with that of the much stronger “Once.”
Giglio’s Jay, suffering from midlife crisis, has left his high-paying gig as a graphic designer in Gotham to work on his music with Matt (Springer). The faith and support of his beautiful wife, Jasmine (Pooja Kumar), have been eroding over the years, exacerbated by the crass materialism of her class-conscious parents. The increasing pressure the neglected-feeling Jasmine brings to bear on Jay and his “other” partner provides the pic’s dramatic throughline.
Unfortunately, the natural flow of the interaction between Springer and Giglio fails to extend to the character of Jasmine, whose dialogue ping-pongs between bald statements of dissatisfaction and smiling professions of undying love. Indeed, “Chalk” suffers overall from a lack of subtlety, as problems abruptly get thrust into the foreground with little buildup or internal consistency.
Giglio and Springer never stray far from their comfort zone as their characters never stray far from home, their supposedly painful choices always mitigated by the underlying belief that options not taken are never completely abandoned.