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Posts Tagged ‘David Dastmalchian’

David Dastmalchian, Karen Gillan

“ALL CREATURES HERE BELOW” My rating: B

91 minutes | No MPAA rating

Filmed mostly in Kansas City, Collin Schiffli’s “All Creatures Here Below” reminds of a 21st-century retooling of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.

Its background is not the Great Depression but rather the hardscrabble world of the contemporary underclass. In lieu of the childlike giant Lenny it offers a young woman of similar simplicity, though her mental/emotional fragility is born less of genetics than a ghastly past.

And like Steinbeck’s novel,  David Dastmalchian’s screenplay is rooted in a fatalism that offers only brief flickers of stubborn — and elusive — hope.

The good news is that the piece has been so well acted by its two leads that it keeps us involved long after our logical sides tell us it’s time to bail.

Gensan (Dastmalchian) and Ruby (Karen Gillan) are a young couple living hand to mouth in Los Angeles.

In the film’s first few minutes he is laid off from his job making pizzas (corporate is trimming the work force) and she is let go from her gig on the cleaning crew of a megachurch…apparently Ruby can’t keep from hanging around the nursery, which she has been told is off limits to her. (In Mice… Lenny has a thing for rabbits; Ruby obsesses about babies.)

Desperate for cash, Gensan wagers his severance paycheck on an illegal cockfight. He loses big but in the ensuing chaos of a police raid manages to make off with a stolen car and a wad of cash from the betting table. He gets word to Ruby to meet him away from their apartment; they have to get out of Dodge.

She shows up as directed, only she has with her the infant daughter of their neighbor. Ruby has found the child unattended and decided that she’d be the better mother.

Now the frantic — and let’s face it, not very bright — Gensan must navigate a drive across half the country with the maddeningly illogical Ruby and a crying baby who needs diapers, a child car seat, and nourishment (Ruby is so clueless she attempts to breast feed; even Gensan knows you have to be pregnant before that works).

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David

Kim Shaw and David Dastmalchian

“ANIMALS” My rating: B+

90 minutes | No MPAA rating

Years ago I decided I’d seen just about every permutation of the drug addict movie that I cared to see.

I hadn’t reckoned on “Animals.”

This feature debut from director Collin Schiffli and screenwriter David Dastmalchian (a former Overland Park resident who also stars and based the story on his own drug history) is a revelation, not so much for what it tells us about heroin as for what it tells us about the human capacity for love.

As the film starts out Jude (Dastmalchian) and Bobbie (Kim Shaw) are living out of their car. They’re junkies, but at this stage of their shared habit it all seems, well, romantic.

He’s thin and dark and kinda Goth.  She’s girl-next-door blond. They are clearly smitten with one another and determined to share everything — from physical intimacy to their stash.

Their days are spent hanging out near Chicago’s Lincoln Park. Schiffli occasionally punctuates the human story with shots of various animals in their cages at the nearby zoo — not-so-subtle symbolism and one of the few times when the film feels forced.

When we first meet the couple they’re what you might call middle-class junkies.  They can pass for normal. They don’t seem particularly desperate.  In fact, they’re enjoying themselves immensely.

They run nonviolent scams  — like shoplifting CDs and reselling them on the street –to get their hands on money and drugs.

If they need to up their income, Jude publishes an ad offering Bobbie’s sexual services. She’ll show up for a prearranged session at some lonely guy’s home, collect half the evening’s fee, and announce she has to deliver it to her pimp out in the car before any physical business gets underway.

She and Jude laugh all the way to their dealer.

The first half of “Animals” is about drug addicts who seem to think that their love will get them through anything.

The second half puts that thesis to the test. Which is stronger, romance or heroin? When your veins are twitching, are you selfless enough to give your last fix to that special someone?

Shot and performed in a naturalistic manner, “Animals” somehow manages to turn most of the drug cliches inside out, putting a human face where nowadays most of us like to think in terms of policy.

| Robert W. Butler

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