“Breaking and Exiting” is the first directorial feature for actor Peter Facinilli, and first produced screenplay for actor-turned-producer/star Jordan Hinson. One hopes it was a good learning experience for all, because from a viewer’s perspective, the results don’t provide much reward.
This wafer-thin seriocomedy, basically one long meet-cute between a burglar and a suicidal woman, feels padded even at just 78 minutes. Whatever the promise of that premise, very little happens in the way of narrative or character development, which leaves the film over-reliant on a central chemistry (Milo Gibson is Hinson’s co-lead) that isn’t really there.
Despite surface polish, this indie feels like a classroom exercise that checks off the basic technical and narrative-beat boxes needed to get a passing grade, yet never develops any real personality of its own or raison d’etre. Freestyle Digital Media launches the film in limited theatrical release simultaneous with VOD on Aug. 17.
Things start out unpromisingly with too much voiceover narration from Harry (Gibson, a ringer for dad Mel around the eyes), who offers the kind of fatuous wise generalities suggesting this movie will aim for greeting-card-level profundity. Harry informs us it’s all about “the kind of decisions that can change you — maybe forever!” … at which point we see him do a U-turn in his truck to reluctantly return to the house he’s just burgled.
There, he’s left behind Daisy (Hinson), whom he found in the bathtub (albeit, somewhat incongruously, clothed), waiting to die from a deliberate overdose of pills. She didn’t care that he was robbing her, and he pointed out she’d taken the wrong pills for her purpose — then helpfully selected the right ones from the medicine cabinet. But a guilty conscience makes him turn back, though she pointedly doesn’t want to be rescued. He then decides for vague reasons to stay until she’s awakened from a no-longer-fatal sleep.
This happens at about the half-hour point. Until then, we’ve rewound to glimpse Harry’s everyday life, which mostly involves getting stoned, ignoring soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend Lana (Justine Wachsberger), and looting absent rich people’s homes with cousin Chris (Adam Huber), who wants to quit and go legit. Harry is a snarky, rudderless man-boy jerk of no discernible depth, so it makes scant sense when he suddenly starts acting all sensitive and life-affirming around Daisy.
But then, she’s an even blanker slate: We do learn that she’s unhappy and recently abandoned by her fiance, but that’s it. Neither character’s backstory gets any detail, and beyond the occasional platitude, their interactions mostly stay on a trivial plane — “cute” arguments and kidding-around. They discover they have things in common, but from the audience’s p.o.v. that appears primarily a matter of both of them being purported adults who talk and think like whiny teenagers. We’re presumably supposed to find them quirky, charming and meant for each other. Try as they might, these actors can’t pull that off, not with this material.
That failing gradually palls the main hook, which from the outset isn’t as fresh as it hopes: Though seldom remembered now, James Kirkwood’s once-ubiquitous novel and stage play “P.S. Your Cat Is Dead” also milked seriocomedy from the bonding between a burglar and his despondent mark.
There is one late, genuine narrative twist, which is welcome even if it settles for being a gimmick that doesn’t meaningfully change the key dynamic. Before that finally arrives, Facinelli inadvertently underlines the script’s thinness by piling on cutesy montage sequences — watch the leads trying on clothes! making dinner! making love! — to pre-existing song tracks. It’s a device that rapidly starts looking like obvious filler when overused, as it is here.
Tech and design contributions are all competent, though if ever a movie needed the distinguishing stamp of some assertive stylistic elements, this is it. Closing credits are stretched out as slowly as possible, complete with a virtual scrapbook of behind-the-scenes photos — further suggesting that the usefulness of “Breaking and Exiting” may lay more in the realm of training than entertaining.