The first day of the new month brings a wide variety of feelings, a start of something new, a chance to improve upon yourself from the previous month, or as in this case if it falls on a Friday you get a whole fresh slate of new releases at theatres. Beginning tomorrow in a limited run at the Carlton Cinemas here in downtown Toronto is “California Solo” an official Sundance Film selection about a retired rocker trying to put his life back together.
In “California Solo” a former Britpop rocker (Robert Carlyle) who now works on a farm gets caught driving drunk and faces deportation after living in Los Angeles for many years. His efforts to stay in the U.S. force him to confront the past and current demons in his life.
In the realm of splashy big budget pictures, we can learn one genuine thing from “California Solo”, that is that Robert Carlyle needs more work. Writer/director Marshall Lewy’s story of an ex rock and roller living the quiet life until his antics get him into trouble and he has to reassess his life and confront his demons is really a tired one that has been down countless times before and we don’t get a whole lot of new or interesting things brought to the table, it is beautifully shot making certain areas of Southern California seem terribly idyllic and lovely. However with an overdone narrative and an underwritten supporting ensemble it all comes across as hollow and uninspired, but there was one thing that managed to elevate this film into something that was quite watchable as Robert Carlyle turns in a excellent performance.
As Lachlan MacAldonich (try saying that 3 times fast), Carlyle effectively got to the heart of a man who was effectively hiding from his past until his self destructive ways ended up catching up to him. Carlyle found the characters center and wore his heart on his sleeve for better or for worse as the narrative of his sheltered and non committal life unfolds in front of the audience. The likes of Danny Masterson, Kathleen Wilhoite and A Martinez show in small and underdeveloped roles as they all exist on the outside of Carlyle’s world as his bad habits and grief for his brother’s passing all come to light throughout the story.
Without Carlyle’s heart wrenching performance here in “California Solo” there really wasn’t much else in the film for an audience to truly grab on to but at the very least we get a reminder of the genuine talent that most audiences were first exposed to during The Full Monty all the way back in 1997.
2 out of 5 stars.
“California Solo” is playing exclusively at the Carlton Cinemas here in downtown Toronto starting tomorrow; check here for show times.
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