‘Nothing to Do’ needs to do more

by Kate Walz on February 15, 2019

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Minor Rock Fist Down]

 Low-budget films are tricky – often the lowered production quality can be distracting. What makes them really fun is seeing the ingenuity of the work-arounds the director and team come up with (particularly striking in well-done shoestring horror movies).

Nothing to Do has the low-end budget, but not quite enough of the ingenious production. The premise has potential for heart and comedy: Irv (Philip Lawton) is dying, and his son, Kenny (Paul Fahrenkopf) comes home to find his secluded father is ready for hospice. Kenny helps him get settled in, and then his sister Rachel (Connie Bowman) arrives with different ideas of how things should be handled. The crunchy-granola neighbor Patti (Patricia Talmadge) provides Kenny with a welcome distraction from saying goodbye to his father.

Nothing to Do plays like a film school project. The actor playing Irv looks to be significantly younger than the actor playing Kenny, which is pretty distracting. Lawton has some genuine moments in his portrayal of a dying character, but often he comes off as childlike rather than elderly.

The script rushes big moments and overplays the small ones. Rachel and Kenny are supposed to be estranged, but they revert back to childish bickering and name calling – which is generally a hallmark of a closer sibling relationship. Distance eliminates familiarity. And Bowman over plays every scene – choosing the most obvious and overblown take on each line of conflict (remember Naomi Watts’ scene in Mullholland Drive when she runs lines with a friend, before killing it in the audition? It’s like that).

Kenny’s romance with Patti is uneven (although Talmadge is the most natural of the actors). There’s a spontaneous kiss in a hallway that is just bizarre and uncomfortable. There’s really nothing appealing about Kenny, the romance comes off as gratuitous – why would this kinda bad-ass, savvy woman have any interest in this schlubby, chain-smoking, radio DJ? She doesn’t seem to have a self-esteem problem.

The set also doesn’t match the film. Most of the action takes place in Irv’s apartment, his wife passed the previous year, so he lives there alone. There’s things that come with marriage and life, and this is the sparsest apartment an elderly person has ever lived in. Also, on the dresser there’s two black and white photos of old men. But there’s no pictures of his wife. It’s just not thought out.

What writer and director Mike Kravinsky is trying to accomplish is there in the bones of the movie, but doesn’t quite come together. There was a lot more he could do with Nothing to Do.

Kate Walz

Kate is a digital advertising ninja by day, but a content-consuming pop-culture nerd always. Her top 5 movies are: The Philadelphia Story, The Master, The Fountain, What About Bob and The Departed.

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