IFC Films’ recently released dramedy Last Call is an unsuspecting success. Having premiered March 19 and released to DVD Sept. 21, the movie proves itself deserving of at least “a round” of applause. Yes, that awful pun was intended. The movie’s success comes primarily through its story, which will be discussed shortly. While the story proves positive, its pacing is a little problematic, but not enough to make the movie a failure. It will be discussed a little later. The cast’s work pays with the story to make the whole a mostly successful new offering that further shows the importance of the independent movie community.
Last Call, the latest starring vehicle from star Jeremy Piven (PCU, Entourage, Serendipity), is a surprisingly entertaining new entry in this year’s field of new movies. The movie’s success comes in large part through its story. The story centers on Mick (Piven), a successful real estate developer who returns to his home in a suburban part of Philadelphia after his mother’s passing. By chance, Mick’s boss, Delveccio (Garry Pastore – The Irishman, The Deuce, The Week Of) just so happens to want Mick to gather signatures from the area’s residents to build a casino in the region. At first things go well, but as the nearly two-hour movie progresses, things take a not so good turn as opposition starts rising against the proposed project. The opposition is being led by Mick’s childhood crush, Ali (Taryn Manning – Orange is the New Black, Hustle & Flow, 8 Mile). The pair’s butting heads leads to the secondary story in this feature, that all-too-familiar boy meets girl/loses her/gets her back in the end tale. As Mick continues his quest to get signatures, he also starts to realize what’s important versus what’s really important. Again, this is little fish turned big fish who returns home tale its own familiar plot. The thing is that it is presented in a new way in this case. Not to give away too much, but Mick’s final decision is made when it turns out that things are not quite what they seem with the casino project. Accepting how this reality check happens takes a little bit of added suspension of disbelief, but those who can suspend their disbelief will find the final outcome rewarding.
Now while the movie’s central story offers plenty for audiences to like, its balance with Piven’s more sophomoric offerings (E.g. PCU, Entourage, etc.) makes for its own interest. What that balance does is offer something for audiences on both sides of Piven’s resume so to speak. It works with the story to make for even more engagement and entertainment. For all that the story and its overall presentation do to make Last Call enjoyable, the movie is not perfect. It does suffer from one problem in the form of its pacing.
Last Call’s pacing proves problematic because both its more serious, dramatic moments and sophomoric moments alike are given too much attention. Case in point is Mick’s late night drinking marathon with his brother and their friends. Sure, the aftermath leads Mick to find the bracelet that Ali had given him when they were kids, but other than that, it really is an unnecessary moment. It’s like the story’s writing team just wanted some way to get Mick to that point of emotional realization and that was the only thing they could come up with, so they threw it at the wall and hoped it would stick. Another moment is that final realization about the casino and Mick’s reaction to said realization. It is almost as if that was thrown in for the sake of it. Not having read the novel on which this story is based, this critic cannot attest to whether this part is in the source material. Regardless, it and what happens after, leads to much more of the pacing problem. Though, it is not the last of the moments that cause the story to drag. There are many others. Between those moments and those noted here, the pacing does detract from the overall enjoyment. However, that detraction is not enough to make the movie a failure. It just cannot be ignored.
Keeping in mind that the pacing of Last Call is problematic, but not enough to make the movie a failure, there is one more item to note that does help the movie. That item is the cast’s work. As in every one of his works, Piven’s performance is spot on throughout the movie. The subtle way in which he has Mick react to his emotional struggles throughout the movie is just as engaging and entertaining as in his existing body of work. In another case, such as the morning after Ali catches him with the other women, his explosive reaction is just as powerful and believable. It and so many other moments throughout the movie continues to show why Piven is such a respected actor.
On another note, Jack McGee (The Fighter, Gangster Squad, Drive Angry) deserves his own applause as he takes on the role of Mick’s father, Laurence. While Laurence is more a supporting character here, McGee still entertains in his own right. He makes clear that Laurence knows the bar is going under financially, but is still trying to be strong and put on a strong face. It is what so many of us do in difficult times. The way in which McGee puts that emotional weight on display makes Laurence that much more of a sympathetic character. That is because his performance makes Laurence’s persona so relatable. Even when Laurence finally admits to Mick that he knows the situation, McGee still keeps his performance subdued. He easily could have hammed it up, but he opted not to do that. To that end, it shows even more, why McGee’s performance is of note.
As if all of this is not enough, Mick’s friends, Whitey and Paddy (Jamie Kennedy and Chris Kerson) and his brother, Dougal, (Zach McGowan) add their own touch through their performances. Their wildness represents everything that Mick left behind when he went off to college and then started his own more successful life. Yes, they are little more than college frat boy types who never really grew up, but they are also that heart that remains in Mick’s old neighborhood. Mick sees their happiness and how they relate to the neighborhood’s other residents and starts to really change his thinking and ways, again leading to the noted familiar plot element. Between their performances, those of McGee, Piven, and the rest of the cast, the overall performances do their own share to show why the cast’s work is so important to this movie. It proves just as engaging and entertaining as the movie’s familiar but unique story. When those elements are considered together, they make up for the story’s problematic pacing to make the overall presentation one more of the year’s top new independent and overall movies.
IFC Films’ movie, Last Call, is a surprisingly and mostly enjoyable new addition to this year’s field of new independent and overall movies. That is proven in part through its story. The story is familiar in both its primary and secondary elements. At the same time the execution of those elements makes the overall presentation unique. While the overall story is unique and expertly balances its comedic and heartfelt elements, the pacing thereof proves problematic. It makes the movie’s 82-minute run time feel somewhat longer – around two hours. The pacing is problematic because there are scenes that could have been cut. Even with the problems raised by the pacing, they are not enough to make the movie a failure, though they cannot be ignored at the same time. Making up for the problems raised by the pacing is the cast’s work on camera. The cast, both main and supporting, does its own admirable job of keeping viewers engaged and entertained. It works with the movie’s story to make the presentation mostly successful, even considering the pacing problems. To that end, the movie proves itself deserving of at least “a round” (again, yes, that awful pun was intended) of applause.
Last Call is available now. More information on this and other titles from IFC Films is available at:
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