Film Review: The Preppie Connection (dir by Joseph Castelo)


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The Preppie Connection, which is currently playing On Demand and in limited release, has got a 0% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.  That seems a little bit harsh to me.  I mean, The Preppie Connection isn’t exactly a good movie but it’s still not a disaster.  It’s main sin is that it’s generic and forgettable and squanders a potentially interesting story.  That’s definitely not a good thing but still, The Preppie Connection is still better than some of the other films that currently have a zero score on Rotten Tomatoes.  The Preppie Connection may not be great but it’s still better than Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star and A Thousand Words.

0%?

Not hardly.

More like 25%.

Anyway, The Preppie Connection is apparently based on a true story.  Tobias Hammel (Thomas Mann) is a poor kid who wins a scholarship to an exclusive private school.  At first, Tobias struggles to fit in.  He doesn’t know how to relate to his wealthy classmates and he’s embarrassed when his friends from the old neighborhood show up on campus.  When he is instructed to sign a 200 year-old book, he accidentally knocks the book to the floor.  As a result, the other students beat him up.

Fortunately, for Tobias, everyone assumes that — since he’s poor — he’ll be able to get them drugs.  At first, everyone is satisfied with weed but, since this movie is taking place in the 80s, everyone soon starts to pressure Tobias to get them cocaine.  Fortunately (and conveniently), Tobias has befriended the son of the Colombian ambassador.  Soon, Tobias is making regular trips to Colombia and returning with bags of cocaine hidden away in his travel bag.

Usually, I love films about wealthy drug addicts.  There’s usually a few good scenes of drug-fueled decadence and, since they’re rich, everyone’s usually dressed nicely.  But no… sorry.  The Preppie Connection just doesn’t work.  Visually, the film is flat and, even worse, it appears that the budget was too low to be able to afford the rights to any period music.  I was hoping to hear at least a few classic 80s songs but instead, the film only offered some generic synthesizer-fueled music.

Speaking of generic, Thomas Mann narrates nearly the entire film and it’s some of the most vapid narration that I’ve ever heard.  I mean, I understand that everyone loves Goodfellas and Casino but that doesn’t mean that every period gangster film has to feature nonstop narration.

Ultimately, The Preppie Connection is such an incredibly forgettable film that I really can’t even come up with more than 400 words to type about it.  That said, Logan Huffman and Lucy Fry both give good performances as two of Tobias’s customers and they’re good enough to bump the film up to at least a score of 25 out of 100.

Take that, Rotten Tomatoes.

Back to School #70: Lymelife (dir by Derick Martini)


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Lymelife is an odd but occasionally effective indie film from 2008.  Taking place in 1979, the film tells the story of two brothers living on Long Island.  The older brother, Jimmy Bartlett (Kieran Culkin) has recently graduated from high school and is preparing to enter the army.  (We hear that he’s going to be shipped off to fight in a war against Argentina, which is odd because, to the best of my knowledge, the U.S. has never been at war with Argentina.)  The younger brother is 15 year-old Scott (Rory Culkin), a gentle boy who loves Star Wars and who is doted on by his overprotective mother, Brenda (Jill Hennessy).  Scott’s relationship with his father, Mickey (Alec Baldwin), is far less positive with Mickey feeling that his youngest son is weak and Scott resenting the fact that Mickey is always cheating on Brenda.

As the film opens, a recent outbreak of Lyme Disease has got everyone in a panic.  Brenda, in particular, is terrified that Scott is going to get bitten by a tick and refuses to let him go outside unless every inch of his skin is covered and protected.  Causing Brenda even more panic is the fact that their neighbor, Charlie Bragg (Timothy Hutton), has contracted the disease and has lost his job as a result.  Now, he spends all of his time either outside trying to hunt deer or hiding down in his basement.  His wife (Cynthia Nixon) is forced to take a job from Mickey in order to support the family and soon, she and Mickey are having an affair.

In fact, the only person who doesn’t completely shun Charlie is Scott, though this is largely because Scott has, for years, had a crush on Charlie’s daughter, Adrianna (Emma Roberts).  Adrianna finally starts to return Scott’s affection but then Charlie discovers the truth about his wife’s job with Mickey and things … well, things do not end happily.

Lymelife is a strange film, one that at times almost plays like a parody of a typical indie film.  This is one of those films where a lot of things happen but you’re not always quite sure why they happened and ultimately, it’s hard not to feel like the film is essentially a collection of loosely related scenes, all looking for a stronger narrative.   But, with all that in mind, I still like Lymelife.  Director Derik Martini brings such an intense and humanistic touch to the film’s dangerously quirky storyline and it’s such an obviously personal film that it becomes fascinating in its own way.  Not surprisingly, both Alec Baldwin and Jill Hennessy overact in their roles (and considering that they have the most melodramatic lines, that’s not always a good thing) but, fortunately, Timothy Hutton, Emma Roberts, and the Culkin Brothers all give excellent performances.

Plus, the film’s ending is absolutely haunting, largely because of the wise use of the song Running Out Of Empty, which can be heard below.