Tuesday, April 28, 2015

3 Nights in the Desert: Movie Review

A slow, mysterious piece of reflection in the desert.
Anna (Amber Tamblyn), Travis (Wes Bentley) and Barry (Vincent Piazza) are three thirty-something former friends, former band-mates and 10 years removed from when their band was up-and-coming and on the road to success. Now, Anna is still a singer, Barry is a lawyer and married, and, as the title suggests, are spending three nights in the desert at the urging of Travis who has not moved on as well as the others. 2014

Directed by: Gabriel Cowan

Screenplay by: Adam Chanzit

Starring: Amber Tamblyn, Wes Bentley
and Vincent Piazza

The casting is perfect. Tamblyn, Bentley and Piazza are all talented actors who have not yet found lasting success – echoing their characters. There are strong hints of past romantic entanglements that have likely driven this threesome apart, and an atmosphere of unrest that says the weekend isn't going to go smoothly, but could go according to plan since we don't really know what Travis's plan is.

The three are at Travis's cabin in the desert and on the weekend of their birthdays. An opening interview with these emerging musical stars tells us that they met while out celebrating their birthdays which all happen to fall within a few days. Another line in that opening interview from a younger Travis says that in 10 years they'll either be famous or dead. 10 years later, they're not famous, so that sense of unrest and foreboding of possible tragedy is very palpable.

Film stills From "3 Nights in the Desert" © New Artists Alliance,
courtesy of Monterey Media.
Travis and Barry are the most intriguing characters, but that's only because Anna is more understandable – where she is now fits where she was 10 years ago. Her friendship with both guys makes sense, and how she could have come between the two also makes sense. She's just trying to repair lost friendships, she's not trying to change the past. Barry has changed the most and what he thinks he's going to get out of this weekend is not entirely clear. Travis is the hot-tempered one, the one with a plan, and the one still desperate to be famous. What Travis has been through, and also what he's up to now isn't entirely clear.

There's a slow, mysterious air to the whole thing. Sometimes it feels like nothing's happening, and sometimes it feels like it's going nowhere – but that's probably because this movie isn't about anything other than allowing these three characters to reflect on their life. After all, the desert is the perfect place for solitude and introspection. 3 Nights in the Desert will work better for those who connect to any of the three leads, perhaps failed musicians who appreciate slow thoughtful pieces of quarter-life angst. It's entirely drama with no moments of comedy but the short run time can save you from the suffocation of the hot desert air filled with loneliness and isolation.

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Lucky Them (2013) - Immature character loses the plot as she finds herself.