Thursday 5 December 2013

The Diner (2013)

Director: Barbara A Gresser
Stars: Stacie Stocker, River Demson and Bill Wetherill
This film was a submission to one of the IFP Phoenix film challenges in 2013. Here's an index to my reviews of 2013 submissions.
I wanted to like The Diner a lot more than I did. It started well, with the always welcome face of Stacie Stocker and an intriguing co-star, a young man with big glasses and slicked back hair, who looks like a fourteen year old Leo diCaprio. Stocker is an unnamed waitress, a tired, gum chewing waitress late on her shift who's lost her lucky pen. She's as reliable as always but the part isn't a good one, being more the sort of character you don't watch than the sort of character you do. The co-star is River Demson, a new face to me, who provides the bounce needed with his clean freak antics; while the waitress cleans the wall clock, he cleans the peg jumping game on the table. He's a much more overt character, but he gets less interesting as the story runs on. It ramps up a few notches towards the end, with a wonderful, albeit brief, altercation and the arrival of another reliable actor, Bill Wetherill, from the kitchen. It even ends gloriously with an awesome last shot, which, with wild music backing it, reminds of Repo Man.

In fact it ends so well that I almost forgot the five minutes it took to get there. The Diner wants to be a film driven by a quirky scenario, but the idea is much quirkier than what we get to see on screen. What we see has its moments but not enough of them. When the waitress asks the patron to leave, we think we're onto something. 'You're going to have a terrible experience here anyway,' she tells him, which is the sort of line I'd eavesdrop from the next table. Unfortunately it doesn't build. When he reacts with a line like, 'Look, this is crazy!' he might have been talking about the script as much as the conversation. It doesn't help that the sound is poor, with inconsistent background noise and the dialogue buried too low in the mix. Spruce up the sound and the story might shine better; spruce up the story and the film might have something as the idea is fine but the execution less so. Maybe Barbara A Gresser, who co-wrote in addition to producing, editing and directing, had mislaid her lucky pen.

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