While many filmmakers have satirized the City of Angels, Nothing in Los Angeles is an unapologetic love letter to writer/director Alexander Tovar’s hometown. An opening credit montage has picture postcard images from around the city set to his own lush orchestral score. Inevitably, though, there’s trouble in paradise.
Like Woody Allen in Manhattan (1979), Tovar plays a character based partly on himself, an aspiring screenwriter named Quinn. Quinn is twenty-five, dating Ann, a woman twice his age. Ann (Kelly Gallagher Nick) is youthful in appearance but is clearly the grown up. Neither of her two young daughters has warmed to Quinn. And his neck pain, according to his shrink (Kelly Van Kirk), is psychosomatic due to “mommy” issues (uh oh).
To escape his domestic woes, Quinn hangs out with his male and nubile female show biz contemporaries at the HMS Bounty, a Gilbert and Sullivan themed restaurant. We’re not talking film noir here. And don’t look for any heavy discussions about The Method. When they’re not gossiping about who got what part, the talk is mostly about exclusive brands of coffee and where to get it.
Updating Michael Murphy’s character in Manhattan, Quinn’s best friend is Peter (Daniel Halden) who’s married to Beth (Marguerite Insolia) an ethereal beauty about Quinn’s own age. Romancing your best friend’s wife would be crass under most circumstances, but what if he’s secretly gay?
Also onboard is co-director, producer Rob Herring as Stevens, an annoying indie director of extremely short films. He name drops NYU (Herring’s real-life alma mater) wherever he can. Stevens is the main character in a few scenes and Herring’s comedic skills are first-rate. We don’t know enough about Stevens to really care about him, however. He does serve an important purpose in that he and Quinn are extreme variations on the two classic film school types, the earnest cinephile and the ambitious go-getter.
Quinn’s awkward flirtation with Beth, a former fundamentalist Christian, hits some strong emotional notes. First time actor Tovar and Insolia are heartbreaking in conveying an impossible situation. Halden is also good in a mostly unsympathetic part.
At Cinequest 2014, Tovar claimed to have written the script in a month. I’d imagine the ideas were brewing for some time. Danny Belinkie’s understated cinematography paired with Tovar’s soundtrack create an idealized Los Angeles that rivals the Paris of the French New Wave. Although it’s not a period piece, much of the appeal of Nothing in Los Angeles is because it harkens back to an earlier era. Why don’t they make ‘em like they used to? Sometimes, they still do.
Nothing in Los Angeles plays at the North Hollywood Cinefest on Sunday April 13, 7:30 pm