James Westby's semi-autobiographical Film Geek, shot in the filmmaker's Portland, Oregon hometown where he was a video-store employee, is a neatly structured tale of a movie geek-a poster boy for "Get a life!" A Revenge of the Nerds for the young indie crowd, this low-budget DV effort has its outsider protagonist Scotty (Melik Malkasian) become a local hero, thanks to his encyclopedic knowledge of film and Westby's ironic embrace of Hollywood's time-honored story values.
Of course, Scotty, the filmmaker's alter ego, gets the girl along the way, just as the narrow demographic of filmgoers who appreciated Andrew Bujalski's self-distributed Funny Ha Ha will get Westby's Bujalski-like droll spin on twenty-something alienation and angst.
Bearing such a burden, the eponymous geek overworks himself by day as a manic, opinionated video-store drone and by night as a lonely guy pleasuring himself at his bathroom sink. When Scotty is unexpectedly dismissed for bombarding clients with too much trivia and tendentious commentary on movies and directors ("We're all waiting for Malick's next"), the vociferously pro-letterbox fanatic is spun into another unappreciative world-the real one. As no one is hiring at the other video stores, Scotty takes a dreary job at an auto-parts emporium. Back and forth from work, he rides the dependable streetcar-a fitting metaphor for his grimly syncopated and mechanical life.
Scotty's hormones are regularly rattled and his overtures regularly spurned by sexy neighbor Cindi (Michelle Garner), who suns herself outside his apartment and cruelly exploits him as her video procurer. Even paying her late fees doesn't help Scotty get any closer to Cindi, except for affording him the opportunity to spy on her in bed with a guy.
Things finally turn around as Scotty impresses with his brilliance at "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" and other filmic matters as expressed on his website. He encounters the attractive, Cronenberg-loving Niko (Tyler Gannon) on the streetcar and a tentative bond is formed. Like Scotty, she's an outsider but one with looks, style and edge that make for a bad-girl image. And she loves film and may even come close to his fantasy of a noir-ish femme fatale. He's hooked, but Niko has an obnoxious boyfriend named Brandon (Matt Morris). Not to worry. Filmmaker Westby manifests a great appreciation for happy endings, the Hollywood way.
Film Geek, propelled by a rousing rock soundtrack and enlivened by intertitles of Scotty's top-five film faves in various categories, doesn't break any new ground. But, on its own terms and for that small audience it owns, the film delivers. It's not a celebration of geekdom at the Napoleon Dynamite level, but Westby knows how to explode more modest cinematic fireworks.