Tag: chris eigeman

The Last Days of Disco


The Last Days of Disco (1998)
★★★ / ★★★★

Alice (Chloë Sevigny) and Charlotte (Kate Beckinsale) are recent Hampshire College graduates who work in the same publishing house in Manhattan. At night, they often go to an exclusive disco club with hopes of meeting bachelors who might provide them romance. Although Alice and Charlotte are constantly around one another, one might argue they are not exactly good friends. You see, when men enter the equation, the foundation of their tenuous relationship is almost always stretched and bent near the breaking point. And yet somehow they think they need each other so their fights do not last for long.

Written and directed by Whit Stillman, the great contrast that “The Last Days of Disco” offers is between the vibrant music that is disco—so full of energy, life, and rhythm—and the young New Yorkers who are very intelligent but whose lives have flatlined. Although one can claim that the characters, or the archetypes they represent, are being satirized, one might also argue that the writer-director loves his subjects on some level because there is always a level of complexity to each of them. They are never treated solely as punchlines of a joke or a situation gone bad.

It does not mean any of them have to be likable. In fact, there is only one I found myself being able to sympathize with. The central characters, Charlotte and Alice, are snobs on different levels even if their personalities are almost polar opposites. Sevigny does a good job in making a quiet girl seductive. I enjoyed the scenes where Sevigny allows Alice to slink across the room to get a man’s attention, accompanied by her sultry bedroom eyes, but at the same time it is almost like the character is trying too hard in order to hide the fact that she is not very confident. Beckinsale, on the other hand, plays an aggressive character. Charlotte is the more confident half. She represents that girl who is so popular but the more one spends time with her, one wonders if she really has any true friends.

Most fascinating is the character named Josh (Matt Keeslar) whom Des (Chris Eigeman) often labels as a loon for having had a mental breakdown when the two were in college. Their relationship is interesting because just about every time Des says something even remotely derogatory, whether it be a name or an implication that Josh does not deserve to have the jobs he often gets, there is an undercurrent of envy. One of the most hysterical lines in the film is Des claiming that perhaps the reason why he is so happy is because he is not envious of anyone. It is a funny scene because we know better: We have grown to know him better than himself.

The romance between Josh and Alice is downplayed—but I was not entirely convinced such is the most appropriate avenue. Arguably, they are the two characters who are the best fit for one another. Perhaps a bit of genuine sweetness to penetrate the otherwise sour and sardonic tone might have made the movie feel more alive. But then the film is less about romance and more about how a certain era is romanticized.

“The Last Days of Disco” entertains through dry humor and private thoughts often being expressed in one’s attempt to become the center of attention. I did not like most of the characters, but I found myself always anticipating what they might say next. The group discussion about the underlying meanings embedded in the film “Lady and the Tramp” is most hypnotic. They talk about big ideas but they remain sitting on the couch, just waiting for time to pass.

Seven in Heaven


Seven in Heaven (2018)
★ / ★★★★

Unimaginative horror picture “Seven in Heaven,” written and directed by Chris Eigeman, is like a “Twilight Zone” episode stretched to a ninety-minute feature with young teenagers as its main target audience—only they are likely to be bored with it because not much of interest ever happens despite the fact that the story involves traveling across alternate dimensions. I have seen scarier and far more creative episodes of “Goosebumps” and so, in the middle of it, I wondered why the writer-director felt this particular story needed to be told. It’s certainly not entertaining.

Stories involving alternate dimensions should be a source of constant entertainment. A simple formula should be established during the exposition which means getting a feel of the superficial traits of supporting characters involved. You know who they are: the best friend, the romantic interest, the bully, the parents, perhaps even figures of authority like the police—these are the usual figures in the life of a teenager, or at least movie teenagers. But this picture fails to do even that. Take a look at the protagonist’s mother (Jacinda Barrett). She is barely visible because she is written to have no personality. This is supposed to be someone who had just lost her husband a couple of months ago from an auto accident and must now raise her son on her own.

The teen characters share minimal chemistry. While Travis Tope as Jude is capable of emoting (having big and expressive eyes can only help), most dramatic moments fall flat because those who fall within Jude’s social circle are simply there to trade dialogue with. They do not challenge the character in any way, or question him, or force him to grow. Even June (Haley Ramm), the girl with whom he travels across dimensions with, is not compelling. The performer sort of summons a Danielle Harris vibe, but her character is still a bore. Clearly there are fundamental problems with the writing.

The idea of going into a closet for seven minutes and somehow being transported to a different reality is an idea with potential. Each reality, for example, can command a specific look or feeling, to be so different from one another that the viewers end up remembering them. This work does not bother to do this—with one exception. Jude and June open the closet door and the high school party is done. There is nobody around and so they figure everybody must have gone home. And so they step outside the house. Still, there is no one. Look at the sky. There is no moon, no stars. They walk around the neighborhood. Not a single soul. It looks as if every person had evacuated. This is the creepiest the film has ever gotten. Sadly, it lasts only about three minutes and we are off to the usual running around. The problem is, when our protagonists run from danger, it isn’t even convincing. Everything looks to be functioning in slow motion.

I can’t imagine anyone enjoying “Seven in Heaven.” While watching, I thought it probably would have been less of a trial to be endured if I had a notebook and pen in front of me so I could jot down ideas—creative ones—on how plot strands and character motivations could be improved. (For starters, there would be character motivations.)

Barcelona


Barcelona (1994)
★★★ / ★★★★

As the Cold War nears its end, Fred (Chris Eigeman), a navy officer, comes to stay with his cousin, Ted (Taylor Nichols), in Barcelona until his fleet arrives. Though their relationship is somewhat strained since childhood, they are the only cousins that each other have so they try to accept each other’s differences. As time passes, however, the every day challenge of being around one another proves to require more energy to endure. It does not help that Fred wears his Navy uniform wherever he goes which inspires strangers to call him “fascist” and other remarks of disgust.

“Barcelona,” written and directed by Whit Stillman, makes shallow characters worth getting to know. It is critical that they believe they stand for something, from being proud Americans living in foreign country to being romantics who yearn to find the right women. Though their lifestyle seems independent of real struggle, accompanied by a lot of complaining, they are interesting subjects because the more we try to understand them, we realize that perhaps we share some of their traits. Fred and Ted want happiness—whatever that means—which appears to vary from day to day.

Ted is the calmer half—at least on the outside. Nichols does a solid job capturing his character’s insecurities, especially when it comes to dating women that he thinks he deserves. He confides to his cousin that he thinks he might have a “romantic illusion problem.” So, in order to correct his condition, he plans to date women who look plain, maybe even homely. This way, he will have a higher chance of finding the so-called right woman because he will love her for who she is as a person rather than her looks.

In turn, we can ask two questions: 1) Can he truly force himself to view women differently just because he has come to a conclusion with regards to what might be wrong with him? 2) Even if he happens to find the “right” woman, will forcing himself to change get in the way of achieving true happiness? Though Ted dresses in a professional way, holds a nice job, and talks like a very educated adult, in a lot of ways he remains a child.

Fred, on the other hand, is an open book. Whatever thought comes across his mind, he has an urgent need to express it. He is the comedic core of the picture and Eigeman excels in allowing his character to communicate thoughts that may sound stupid without the character coming off vacuous. His monologue about shaving and telling false stories about Ted being into S&M match hilarious one-liners like why he looks so good when in front of a mirror but terrible in photos. At some point, I started to think that if I knew someone like him in person, I would want to be his friend because he is entertaining. But he is arrogant, too. His personality is not everyone’s cup of tea.

The material works because the writer-director is willing to dissect between who the characters are and what they stand for. Can they be separated? One of the subplots involves the increasing political tension between the Americans and the Spanish to the point where safety is an issue. I wished that the tension was in the forefront more often so that the more serious turn in the second half could have had a bit more punch. The middle section drags somewhat in that it repeats the revolving doors of women in the men’s lives.

“Barcelona” searches for meaning through characters who are lost. I admire movies that feature characters that I cannot read or figure out twenty minutes into it. Fred and Ted appear to change in small degrees, but a surprising scene comes around once in a while and you wonder if they have changed or learned anything at all.

Metropolitan


Metropolitan (1990)
★★★★ / ★★★★

While three friends are on their way to a party, Nick (Chris Eigeman) mistakes Tom (Edward Clements), standing next to a taxi, as one of the guests and insists that they all share a transport. Nick takes an immediate liking to Tom because something about him feels exciting. But Tom is not like Nick and his boarding school friends whose families live in New York City’s Upper West Side. Although he is dressed in a fancy suit, a rental, his parents had gotten a divorce and his father took all the money with him, leaving him and his mother on a budget. As a result of the divorce, he feels almost repulsed by the upper-class social scene. Gradually, however, he is drawn to it.

“Metropolitan,” written, directed, and produced by Whit Stillman, is a savagely funny portrait of very educated, wealthy, and self-absorbed young people. It is admirable that although the material pokes fun of them, it is apparent that the writer-director holds a level of affection for his subjects. Instead of treating them as mere targets of ridicule in order to construct a satirical comedy of manners, he gives them depth during unexpected moments even if it seems too late into the picture for us to revise our opinion of a person.

The first part has an air of predictability in the way Tom is seduced into the world urban haute bourgeoisie. Tom meets a person, they converse, they agree or challenge one another, and a tenuous mutual respect is established. It feels formulaic but the film does not stay rooted in this technique for long. As the protagonist grows comfortable with the types of personalities within the group, the material veers away from Tom to give us good reasons why the outsider wants to know more about his newfound friends. Some of them are as insufferable as our first impression but at least an attempt is made for us to be able to give a fair evaluation. But even the more unlikeable ones have the ability to surprise.

The college students discuss a pool of subjects, from social mobility and Marxism to literature and rules of courtship. There are subtle but important distinctions between conversations that occur as a group versus one-one-one. In groups, the intellect is at the forefront which consistently lead to fiery disagreements and name calling. When words are exchanged between two people, although there may be dissent toward views being expressed, the speaker and listener take a more sensitive approach. There is less competition; the mentality of one having to be right therefore the other having to be wrong is downplayed in order to make room for connections that feel true. There is an understanding that what these people have in common is more than money or habitat. They are drawn to one another because they challenge each other’s perspectives and expectations.

It is easy to dislike the subjects because they command jargon that many might find esoteric or pretentious. Admittedly, at times I was vexed with their unwillingness to let go of the pleasantries and simply express unveiled anger or frustration. But perhaps that is the point. These young men and women are so intelligent when it comes to books and ideas but they do not seem to have an emotional compass or a semblance of common sense. It made some me think of friends who are ace on paper but sadly do not have the skills necessary to function or flourish outside of academia.

If there is a great reminder in “Metropolitan,” it is that there is ignorance in all of us. It does not matter if one barely graduated high school or if one achieves the highest education in the most prestigious university. Some are just better at hiding it than others.

Kicking and Screaming


Kicking and Screaming (1995)
★★★ / ★★★★

Four friends (Josh Hamilton, Carlos Jacott, Chris Eigeman, Jason Wiles) decided to move in together after graduation. The thing was, they still lived very close to campus because they couldn’t quite let go of college and they still weren’t ready to face the “real world” for various reasons. What I appreciated most about this film was its honesty. Although it had many quotable one-liners and very funny dry humor, all of it almost always felt secondary so it didn’t feel gimmicky. It felt modern but realistic. The core of the movie was always at the forefront: the four friends feeling lost and the way they tried to deal with the pressures of essentially getting stuck at a specific point in their lives. I liked the fact that the four characters were smart and had potential to be great yet they found themselves hanging out in the same places and having the same kinds of conversations about literature and pop culture. This was highlighted by a girl always telling them that they talked the same. There was a certain sadness about it all because the characters constantly avoided the main issue of lacking the motivation to pursue their potential. Instead, they distracted themselves by magnifying every small problem to instill some sort of meaning in their lives. Another element I thought was interesting was Eric Stoltz who played a tenth-year student. The four characters recognized that they didn’t want to end up like him yet time and again they made decisions that would most likely lead them in the same path. “Kicking and Screaming,” written and directed by Noah Baumbach, is a story of postcollege angst for astute individuals who are willing to look past the surface and extract meaning from certain glances and dialogues. I read a review stating that this movie was simply a series of random scenes of twenty-two-year-olds being lazy and it didn’t come together in the end. I disagree in some ways. While it did feature random scenes that didn’t add up to anything, I think those scenes reflected the characters’ inner turmoil of not knowing what to do with their lives. After an expensive education, everyone sort of expected them to do something meaningful. Because of the paralyzing fear of living up to people’s expectations, they became stuck; each day blended against the other and the fact that they did the same thing every day didn’t help their situation. As for the way the picture ended, I thought it was borderline great. There was something heartbreaking about that scene in the airport yet something so sweet about the Hamilton’s conversation with the girl who liked to give people money if she believed she wasted their time. “Kicking and Screaming” is not for everyone because it’s heavy on dialogue and Baumbach lets the audiences derive meaning from it instead of spoon-feeding us what to think and feel.