×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sunset Stories

Diversity is the star of Ernesto M. Foronda and Silas Howard's "Sunset Stories," a deliberately nontraditional romantic comedy that embraces the sort of actors -- and characters -- typically marginalized by mainstream swooners.

With:
With: Nao Bustamante, Justin Vivian Bond, Monique Gabriela Curnen, Sung Kang, Mousa Kraish, Michelle Krusiec, Joshua Leonard, Jeffrey Licon, Zosia Mamet, Sandy Martin, Lee Meriweather, Meredith Scott Lynn, Andrea Sixtos.

Diversity is the star of Ernesto M. Foronda and Silas Howard’s “Sunset Stories,” a deliberately nontraditional romantic comedy that embraces the sort of actors — and characters — typically marginalized by mainstream swooners. Beyond the respect the pic pays people of color and its non-straight supporting characters, however, all that remains is a meandering indie about an unpleasant, tightly wound nurse (Monique Gabriela Curnen) who loses track of the bone marrow she’s transporting to Los Angeles, forcing her to get her hands dirty interacting with the city’s eccentric locals. Fest play should give this affable ensembler enough momentum for a modest release.

Introduced at Sundance in 2002, Foronda (co-scribe on “Better Luck Tomorrow”) and Howard (who helmed “By Hook or by Crook”) began a conversation that culminated in their making a different kind of film than the industry was seeking, one that wasn’t bound to a bunch of cookie-cutter white characters, but instead reflected the rich mix they saw around themselves. Presented as the realistic answer to fairy-tale romances, the contempo story begins with May (Curnen, who looks like a Latina version of Katie Holmes), still smarting from her breakup with Asian b.f. JP (Sung Kang).

May works in a children’s chemo ward, where she comforts the young patients with cheery platitudes. When one of the cancer victims (“Girls'” Zosia Mamet) rejects her implausibly cheery bedtime stories, May decides to share a personal incident instead, spinning a saga with an independent-minded female character that begins with her rejecting a potential Prince Charming. While glimpses of handcrafted animation suggest a fanciful aspect to May’s tale, the re-enactment is strictly real-world, revealing that the incident described is in fact a memory of a life-changing trip to Los Angeles.

Given a 24-hour window within which to deliver a cooler containing human tissue to a hospital in L.A., May flies from the East Coast to her old stomping grounds, promptly losing the package at the hotel where her ex happens to be performing. Once an aspiring rock star, JP now plays wedding gigs (and likes them). May, on the other hand, is pursuing her dream of becoming a nurse, but seems uncertain that she made the right decision with her life.

As written, May’s character poses a tricky challenge for the film. Her personality is shrill, uptight and overly controlling, made all the more off-putting by her lack of self-awareness, though Curnen ameliorates these prickly qualities by supplying her own intelligence and charm. When May’s cooler goes missing, she turns to JP for help, while the story instantly broadens out to involve all of the other characters who come in contact with the package over the course of the night.

While the chase itself is beside the point, the film relies on the cooler’s progress to justify the inclusion of a hipster hustler (Joshua Leonard); his cabaret-singing, gender-bending g.f. (Justin Vivian Bond); a butch old mechanic (Sandy Martin in a part written for a man); a talented graffiti tagger on the fence about art school (Andrea Sixtos); and a struggling actor reduced to Hollywood Boulevard costume play (Mousa Kraish). Of this crowd, only Sixtos’ character is fully developed, and yet, the group is eccentric enough to convey the helmers’ point that Los Angeles overflows with oddball personalities.

The pic further flatters the city with bright lensing and jaunty energy, though there’s a piecemeal quality to the assembly, in which the animation disappears early on, the music style is constantly changing and subplots involving side characters dead-end, unresolved. “Sunset Stories” does a fair job of capturing the joys and pains of life in L.A., but the marrow is definitely missing.

Sunset Stories

Production: A Plain View Pictures and Serena Films production presented in association with Cherry Sky Films and Yomyomf Films. Produced by Tatiana Kelly, Valerie Stadler. Executive producer, Justin Lin. Co-producers, Joan Huang, Jean Huang. Directed by Ernesto M. Foronda, Silas Howard. Screenplay, Foronda, Valerie Stadler.

Crew: Camera (color), PJ Raval; editors, Greg D'Auria, Cindy Thoennessen; music, Timo Chen, Sheri Ozecki; production designer, Laurel Frank; costume designer, Frank Helmer; sound, Adam Douglass; supervising sound mixer, Joe Dzuban; animated sequences, Geoff Palmer; associate producers, Tada Chae, Salvador Gatdula, Jimmy Tsai; assistant director, Joel Henry; casting, Brad Gilmore. Reviewed at Outfest, Los Angeles, July, 2012. (Also in SXSW Film Festival.) Running time: 83 MIN.

With: With: Nao Bustamante, Justin Vivian Bond, Monique Gabriela Curnen, Sung Kang, Mousa Kraish, Michelle Krusiec, Joshua Leonard, Jeffrey Licon, Zosia Mamet, Sandy Martin, Lee Meriweather, Meredith Scott Lynn, Andrea Sixtos.

More Film

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    Film News Roundup: AMC, Regal to Leave 'Roma' Out of Best Picture Showcases

    In today’s film news roundup, “Roma” will not be in the best picture showcases at AMC and Regal, “Jimi Hendrix: Electric Church” gets a release and SAG-AFTRA’s David White has a new appointment. ‘ROMA’ SPURNED More Reviews Concert Review: Lady Gaga Outdoes Her Other Vegas Show With Masterful 'Jazz & Piano' TV Review: 'Russian Doll' [...]

  • First Look at SAG Awards' Cuban

    First Look at SAG Awards' Cuban-Inspired After-Party (EXCLUSIVE)

    Celebrities at this year’s SAG Awards won’t have to go far for some tropical fun. Sunday’s annual post-show gala, hosted by People magazine for the 23rd year, is set to feature a Cuban-themed party space adjacent to the Shrine Auditorium. More Reviews Concert Review: Lady Gaga Outdoes Her Other Vegas Show With Masterful 'Jazz & [...]

  • Paul DavidsonVariety Big Data Summit Presented

    Listen: The Orchard's Paul Davidson on Surviving Sundance Bidding Wars

    Hollywood heads to Park City, Utah this week in the hopes of finding the next big Sundance Film Festival breakout. Paul Davidson, executive vice president of film and television at The Orchard, plans to be in the thick of it. In today’s edition of Variety‘s “Strictly Business” podcast, Davidson opens up about The Orchard’s strategy [...]

  • Young Tony Soprano in 'Sopranos' Movie:

    James Gandolfini's Son Michael Gandolfini Cast as Tony Soprano in 'Sopranos' Movie

    Michael Gandolfini, son of the late James Gandolfini, will play the young Tony Soprano in “The Many Saints of Newark,” the  prequel movie to the television series “The Sopranos.” “It’s a profound honor to continue my dad’s legacy while stepping into the shoes of a young Tony Soprano,” Gandolfini said. “I’m thrilled that I am [...]

  • Bradley Cooper A Star Is Born

    The Message of the Oscar Nominations: You'd Better Have a Social Message

    Each year at the Left Coast crack of dawn, when the Oscar nominations are announced, there’s generally at least one major nomination many pundits were predicting that fails to materialize. When that happens, entertainment media tends to rise up as one and say the s-word: snub. In truth, it’s not usually a snub; it’s just [...]

  • Elton John and Mark Ronson

    Elton John to 'Shallow' Songwriter Mark Ronson: 'You're Going to Win the Oscar'

    Elton John is willing to bet that Mark Ronson will win the Oscar for Best Original Song for “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born.” The nominations were announced this morning. The legendary performer spoke to Ronson on the latest episode of his radio show “Elton John’s Rocket Hour” on Apple Music’s Beats 1.  More Reviews Concert [...]

  • Olivia Colman Colin Firth Helen Mirren

    Playing a British Monarch Is a Step on the Road to Oscar Glory - Again

    “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown,” Shakespeare wrote of Britain’s care-burdened monarchs. Try telling that to the Academy. Once again, playing British royalty has proved to be a tried-and-true route to Oscar glory, with Olivia Colman as the latest actor to be nominated for an Academy Award for portraying an occupant of the British [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content