Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: California Solo

Robert Carlyle’s layered performance as an embittered musician facing his demons gives this fragile drama some emotional heft.

Nov 27, 2012

-By David Rooney


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1368088-Calif_Solo_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Writer-director Marshall Lewy’s California Solo is a melancholy character study of a burnt-out former Britpop rocker steered by misfortune onto a path of possible redemption. While the script veers toward familiar melodrama and is not without cliché, the minor-key film benefits from Robert Carlyle’s soulful performance in the central role, bouncing back and forth between dulled resignation and self-destructive anger.

A Scotsman voluntarily exiled in California, where he works on an organic farm outside Los Angeles, Lachlan MacAldonich (Carlyle) has a lot of rough-edged charm and humor to offset his failings. That appeal is clearly evident to Beau (Alexia Rasmussen), a similarly unfulfilled regular customer at the Silver Lake farmers’ market where Lachlan sells produce.

A high-school dropout who got swept up in the glory days of the Manchester music scene, Lachlan was the guitarist in a culty 1990s rock band. But their bid for immortality was undercut by the sudden death of the talented front-man, Lachlan’s older brother. His guilt over having supplied the drugs that killed him has kept Lachlan from returning to the U.K. He now finds oblivion in a whiskey bottle every night while recording “Flame-Outs,” a podcast series “where we consider the tragic and sometimes spectacular deaths of the world’s greatest musicians.”

Lewy sniffs around the possibility of a relationship with Beau, but that never quite happens. The character is unsatisfyingly drawn, with too few personal insights to make her interesting. The understatement works better in Lachlan’s gentle friendship with the farm owner (A Martinez) and his teenage son (Eli Vargas), who remain supportive of him despite his unreliability.

Lachlan is arrested early in the movie on DUI charges, and a conviction from many years earlier for marijuana possession comes back to haunt him. Despite being a legal resident in the U.S. for 12 years, he risks being repatriated unless he can prove that his removal would cause extreme hardship for a spouse or relative who is an American citizen.

As his options run out, Lachlan is forced to dredge up the past, contacting his estranged ex-wife (Kathleen Wilhoite) and 13-year-old daughter (Savannah Lathem) in a clumsy bid to work that angle. Lewy declines to go down the prosaic road of rescuing him. But a lovely scene between the smart, sensitive young girl (played with disarming delicacy by Lathem) and the father she has never known plants the seed for Lachlan to reclaim some kind of a life.

Shot in soft light and muted tones in and around Los Angeles, and graced by composer T. Griffin’s mellow acoustic score, the film favors nonjudgmental observation over muscular drama, meaning it’s somewhat underpowered. Even Lachlan’s booze-fueled meltdown or his explosions of impotent rage over the tricky immigration laws yield only passing moments of volatility.

But Carlyle gives California Solo a bruised heart. (His slight resemblance to music veteran Paul Weller, the former lead of The Jam and Style Council, adds flavor to his portrayal of a one-time Britpop fixture.) The actor’s work here is both character-specific and universal in its midlife reflections on bad decisions, poor planning and youthful mistakes, ending on a hopeful note that suggests it’s never too late to shake off the numbness and try again.
The Hollywood Reporter


Film Review: California Solo

Robert Carlyle’s layered performance as an embittered musician facing his demons gives this fragile drama some emotional heft.

Nov 27, 2012

-By David Rooney


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1368088-Calif_Solo_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Writer-director Marshall Lewy’s California Solo is a melancholy character study of a burnt-out former Britpop rocker steered by misfortune onto a path of possible redemption. While the script veers toward familiar melodrama and is not without cliché, the minor-key film benefits from Robert Carlyle’s soulful performance in the central role, bouncing back and forth between dulled resignation and self-destructive anger.

A Scotsman voluntarily exiled in California, where he works on an organic farm outside Los Angeles, Lachlan MacAldonich (Carlyle) has a lot of rough-edged charm and humor to offset his failings. That appeal is clearly evident to Beau (Alexia Rasmussen), a similarly unfulfilled regular customer at the Silver Lake farmers’ market where Lachlan sells produce.

A high-school dropout who got swept up in the glory days of the Manchester music scene, Lachlan was the guitarist in a culty 1990s rock band. But their bid for immortality was undercut by the sudden death of the talented front-man, Lachlan’s older brother. His guilt over having supplied the drugs that killed him has kept Lachlan from returning to the U.K. He now finds oblivion in a whiskey bottle every night while recording “Flame-Outs,” a podcast series “where we consider the tragic and sometimes spectacular deaths of the world’s greatest musicians.”

Lewy sniffs around the possibility of a relationship with Beau, but that never quite happens. The character is unsatisfyingly drawn, with too few personal insights to make her interesting. The understatement works better in Lachlan’s gentle friendship with the farm owner (A Martinez) and his teenage son (Eli Vargas), who remain supportive of him despite his unreliability.

Lachlan is arrested early in the movie on DUI charges, and a conviction from many years earlier for marijuana possession comes back to haunt him. Despite being a legal resident in the U.S. for 12 years, he risks being repatriated unless he can prove that his removal would cause extreme hardship for a spouse or relative who is an American citizen.

As his options run out, Lachlan is forced to dredge up the past, contacting his estranged ex-wife (Kathleen Wilhoite) and 13-year-old daughter (Savannah Lathem) in a clumsy bid to work that angle. Lewy declines to go down the prosaic road of rescuing him. But a lovely scene between the smart, sensitive young girl (played with disarming delicacy by Lathem) and the father she has never known plants the seed for Lachlan to reclaim some kind of a life.

Shot in soft light and muted tones in and around Los Angeles, and graced by composer T. Griffin’s mellow acoustic score, the film favors nonjudgmental observation over muscular drama, meaning it’s somewhat underpowered. Even Lachlan’s booze-fueled meltdown or his explosions of impotent rage over the tricky immigration laws yield only passing moments of volatility.

But Carlyle gives California Solo a bruised heart. (His slight resemblance to music veteran Paul Weller, the former lead of The Jam and Style Council, adds flavor to his portrayal of a one-time Britpop fixture.) The actor’s work here is both character-specific and universal in its midlife reflections on bad decisions, poor planning and youthful mistakes, ending on a hopeful note that suggests it’s never too late to shake off the numbness and try again.
The Hollywood Reporter
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Food Chains
Film Review: Food Chains

Vitally important, infuriating exposé of the world of injustice behind the food you consume. More »

Monk with a Camera
Film Review: Monk With a Camera: The Life and Journey of Nicholas Vreeland

Enthralling and uplifting documentary about a man of the world turned monk, but one who effects real, inspiring change. More »

The Circle
Film Review: The Circle

Very strong, historically intriguing and important gay document is marred by intrusive real-life interview footage, which seriously breaks up the dramatic momentum. More »

babadook
Film Review: The Babadook

An intense, terrifying indie horror film with more on its mind than scaring its audience. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

imitation game
Film Review: The Imitation Game

Terrific biopic about world-class mathematician and social misfit Alan Turing, who, in spite of a painful struggle with his homosexuality, helped the Allies break the code of the Nazis' Enigma machine. More »

Hunger Games - Mockingjay Pt 1
Film Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

Darker, less action-packed first half of the final installment of the popular franchise moves from arenas to rubble aplenty as Jennifer Lawrence’s super-heroine is called upon to serve her beleaguered and much-destroyed nation as propaganda instrument and leader. Fans of the books and previous two films get a less flashy palette here, but the engaging characters and strong story return to stir interest for the scheduled November 2015 finale. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here