"Both emotionally and intellectually engaging and leaves the viewer with the complete satisfaction that only a fully developed story and uniquely three-dimensional characters can deliver ..." - Allen Richards, B-independent.com.
"An interesting film with lots of great characters that you'll find yourself pulling for and hoping that things work out for them so they can all find happiness. It's definitely a movie worth seeing." - Duane L. Martin, Rogue Cinema
"Gilchrist's approach is inspiring." - Felix Vasquez Jr., Film Threat
GODS OF LOS ANGELES
Reviewed by B-Independent.com
Lily - Cori Haisler
Garrett Gilchrist's drama GODS OF LOS ANGELES was once described to me as "an endurance test." Running 2 1/2 hours, a less backhanded description would be "Paul Thomas Anderson goes to college." How can any movie be an endurance test when it's both emotionally and intellectually engaging and leaves the viewer with the complete satisfaction that only a fully developed story and uniquely three-dimensional characters can deliver?
The comparison to P.T. Anderson isn't that far off. As GOLA unfolded, I was reminded of Anderson's MAGNOLIA. Both movies contain a similar vibe where the capricious nature of life is overshadowed by a supernatural omnipresence searching for balance and attempting to bestow comfort and peace of mind to those we follow in the story. Both movies meander through the lives of their characters driving home the mundaity of their daily existence as well as each character's set of personal problems and emotional issues. The complexity of the characters is illustrated by how they deal with those own issues.
Lily has been declared emotionally unstable and she longs to get out from under her protective father's thumb. Never having been out on her own, she's able to see the beauty and magic in every thing as most things are new to her. She possesses a wide eyed innocence that can only be described as angelic. As Lily, Gilchrist has cast Cori Haisler, an actress who has appeared in some of his other films, and I remember being taken with her beauty in the past. Not only does she bring her considerable looks to the table, as an actress she has an earthiness and naturalism that keeps the character's feet on the ground while it's clear that her head is in the clouds.
Clifford is another animal altogether. Where Lily is forever the optimist, he possesses a far more cynical outlook. Plagued by his own insecurity, he waves a flag of caustic self-deprecating humor to ward off those that would like to get close to this otherwise true blue friend. He's been hurt one too many times and fears the pain that others simply see as a necessary part of life.
Bruce and Rhonda are two sides of the same coin. A relatively new couple, the star-crossed lovers can't help but find strife when their respective insecurities come to the surface of their relationship. Rhonda has been alone for so long that she's blind to her own beauty. Her insecurity leads directly to her state of jealousy. Bruce believes he's lucked out and found a girl above his league. He believes that if he can't reinforce Rhonda's self-esteem, he'll loose her. What neither realizes is that it's those insecurities that are pushing them apart.
These four come together at college, and in their short time together they change each other's lives. A generically cliched description, I know, but if I were to give you a play by play then you'd be reading for hours. Remember, this is a 2 1/2 hour long micro-cinema talking head piece. Lives do change. People grow up. People die. It seems like 90% of most post-film school independents follow this pattern. It's my own film school experience that this sort of formula is beaten into the students until they learn how to develop "real" characters.
That other great film school cliche comes to mind, "it's about the choices people make." That trite, whiny cliche has been bandied about by so many young filmmakers that I pray every night to the higher deity known only as Cassavetes to please remove the words from out of daily lexicon. But in Garrett's case, that's what he's made, a picture about the choices flawed people make as they try to please those they care for. In GODS OF LOS ANGELES, Lily is the catalyst for every choice. Both directly and indirectly, she affects those around her in a way they don't always like. How they choose to deal with her is their choice in life. Consider Bruce, if he weren't such a self-defeatist, he could have a relationship with Lily. She sees the good in him. Bruce, being pushed away by his suffocating girlfriend, sees Lily as a chance to break free from his possessive girlfriend. Rhonda views Lily as her friendship with Bruce as an invasion of territory. What both don't realize is that Lily simply wants to be friends with every one.
I have to admit, it's easy to see why people would either fall or feel threatened by Lily. The actress portraying her, Cori Haisler, brings the right balance of naivete and wide-eyed wonder to the role. Completely happy with her new life, she's always smiling that kind of infectious smile that draws people in hoping that they'll find some happiness to bring into their otherwise hum-drum life. It's that possibility for happiness that also creates jealousy in other women who see only the threat of their territory being invaded. What nobody realizes, except for Lily, is that no one owns another person. People aren't possessions, and that's what she needs to teach them.
I've been told that an early edit of GODS OF LOS ANGELES ran three hours. Watching this shorter version you can see where scenes can be trimmed. I can understand why Gilchrist is having a problem trimming his movie, he's in love with the dialog. That's understandable, and he should be proud of his work. Each character possesses their own distinct voice, they are three dimensional archetypes that we all have met at some point in our lives. For me, it was easy to connect long absent friends to those in GOLA. Lily, Bruce, Rhonda, they all ring true. When you love someone you never want to cut him or her out of your life. Gilchrist, loves his characters, he loves his friends. A critic or reviewer can't tell a director how to make a movie, or what to cut, only what works for them as an audience. The length didn't bother me as much as it seems to have bothered other reviewers. There's an old screenwriting rule that says every scene must bring either new character or plot details to the story. GOLA is all character, which is how I like my movies.
Cin3ma - Moving Pictures - Reviewed by "Keyser Soze"
Gods of Los Angeles - 3.5 stars
When one ventures into the genre of romance, the ante is upped. Commonly associated cliches and typicalities should be avoided or at least accompanied by something new and fresh. Otherwise interest is lost. In this case, the challenge that is Gods of Los Angeles hasn't stopped filmmaker Garrett Gilchrist from pursuing his goal of producing something unique.
The setting is sunny Los Angeles. Given some college, countless tiny lives and relationships come into existence, develop and die off. We focus on a group of characters: Bruce (David Ashe) and Rhonda (Katherine Carpenter) form the emblematic couple. The farsighted but somewhat frustrated and occasionally unsatisfied Rhonda is the mature one in this bond, as Bruce can sometimes be silly, naive and irrational-He excessively tosses the "L" word around when hitting conversational dead-ends, stealing away from its value.
The seemingly routine relationship is given a true test when the angelic Lilly (Cori Haisler) enters their lives. Lilly has always suffered from a mental condition where she can't draw the line between reality and fantasy, which ironically is a trait many of us wished we had and enjoyed. The first time Bruce lays his eyes on her, the balance of his universe is tipped. Her childishness and innocence breathes new differential perspective into not only him, but the gang as well. Like an angel, she touches the lives of the people around her, including Clifford (David Maddox) and Jules (Mariana McConnell), by conveying a message of hope and purpose of something deeper to life. Not to mention some relationship advice!
I noticed something strange about Gods-the first third felt really amateurish and superficial, but I was surprised how it picked up in both progression and professionalism. I have no idea what the reason was behind this phenomenon, but it felt like the first third was a warm-up or a break-in period. I became more drawn as the acting became increasingly talented and the thematic messages started to surface.
The film lays on the table some faith-based and philosophical issues, whichever way you see it. For example, sometimes people don't agree on the things they readily see and hear. How are they expected to agree on things that cannot be seen or heard? With this in mind, many people see that as long as there is pain and suffering in the world, there cannot be this good-natured all-seeing all-controlling higher power. On the other hand, the world cannot revolve without this very reality-how can there be a doctor without the sick? A firefighter without fire? Light without darkness? Good without evil? That is regardless of what you see as good and evil. You will most likely have different questions, and that is what makes Gods interesting.
The whole cast gave admirable performances, but I really have to applaud those by Katherine Carpenter and David Maddox. Katherine actually reminds me of someone I used to work with in the past, and holy shit, does anyone not see a Jim Carrey/ Bruce Campbell hybrid in David Maddox?! My favorite part is the 'perfect date' between Clifford and the insanely hot Martha (Julie Kenworth).
The music in Gods is simply amazing. The beautiful-sounding acoustic guitar played by Shy Phil (Davi Kutz) smoothly bridges the scenes, contributing to the emotional ups and downs of relationships and the youthfulness of college life as we know it.
A good film overall, the beauty of Gods lies in one of the ideas that we can relate to; girls not acknowledging our existence. It does offer us some hope though. While it may sound unbelievable, the idea that, somewhere out there, there is an attractive girl checking us out is inspiring. Maybe someday *crossing fingers* maybe someday.
3.5 Stars, Reviewed by Keyser Soze
GODS OF LOS ANGELES
by Felix Vasquez Jr. (2005-12-16)
2004, Un-rated, 90 minutes, Orange Cow Productions
There's no doubt that "Gods of Los Angeles" is a religious themed romance drama. It's never afraid to outright admit that it's a story that's heavily suggestive towards Jesus Christ, and god, and really approaches such concepts head on. I have no problem with that, but had the movie been better in terms of narrative, I'd have ended up liking it more. The production qualities are just right for what the film entails. There are limited locations, and a small cast, but GilChrist can never seem to break free from the concept and flesh out the story enough. GilChrist fills the cast with competent actors whom are often dead-on in their performances. Cori Haisler in her doe-eyed innocence stares back with a sense of wonder and awe only those with delusions could hold. With saucer blue eyes and a large smile, she's memorable and works as a Christ-like allegory. Not to forget David Maddox who is often very funny as the bittersweet lovelorn Clifford.
"Gods of Los Angeles" has a lot of energy and enthusiasm for a melodrama, but it can never seem to grasp the ideas it lays out on the table. Is the film a commentary about god? A teen melodrama? A love story? Or a thriller? GilChrist can never seem to decide. He constantly hints at potential plot progressions but never develops them. The main character Lilly in her schizophrenic funk can possibly predict the future. Is she a celestial figure, does she have superpowers, or is it all just one big coincidence? We're never told. He hints at her psychotic tendencies and then he completely turns it all around in exchange for a more spiritual angle. Lilly is obviously posed as a Jesus Christ allegory, a prophet who brings upon self-realization to others, and her mental illness may just be a misunderstood ability for her. In the end it was pure sappy melodrama, but it has a tendency to be entertaining, and GilChrist's approach is inspiring.
Gods of Los Angeles (2003) - By Duane L. Martin, Rogue Cinema
Posted on Sunday, January 01 @ Mountain Standard Time by Duane
Gods of Los Angeles is a story about a girl with some mental issues that ends up going to college and touching the lives of nearly everyone she meets. It's also the story of a couple who love each other and yet are unsure about their relationship is going and if they'll be able to make it. It's also the story of a guy who just broke up with his girlfriend and is feeling completely low, yet hides it behind jokes and a smiling face. It's about all these things, and more. Yet it manages to pull all the different story tangents into one coherent story that also has a bit of a paranormal aspect to it.
The whole story is way to involved with way too many tangents to get into here. Coming in at a whopping 155 minutes, this film is extremely long, and yet manges to hold itself together and progress the story throughout it's entirety. My only real complaint is that there were several montage type scenes that just had a song playing in the background that could have been cut from the film. That would have shortened the run time and kept the pacing nice and smooth.
The acting in this film ranged from horrible to really great. Fortunately, almost all of the main characters fall into the really great category, whereas the only really horrible ones were the extras that were hangin' around in this guy's apartment that everyone seemed to like to hang out at. The only one of the main characters I'm going to really ding here (and nothing personal on this) is David Ashe who played Bruce Tree in this film. His acting wasn't horrible, but a lot of his line delivery was. He has an unbelievably hot girlfriend (played by Katherine Carpenter) and he's constantly telling her, "I love you." The problem is not in the fact that he says it a lot, but more in the fact that it sounds completely flat and unemotional when he does. There wasn't a single time he said it that I actually believed he meant it, and it never had any feeling of love in it at all. Mostly it sounded like someone who was saying it because they felt like they had to but didn't really mean it. Also, the scenes where he kissed his girlfriend were basically passionless. Anyone who gets a chance to kiss a girl that hot should just go for it and do it right. Now this isn't to say that he was a horrible actor. He wasn't bad, but I just didn't feel or believe the emotional aspects of his character. The only other one I'd have any bit of a complaint about is Marianna McConnell who played Lily's roommate Jules. Her acting sort of went in the opposite direction in that she was kind of overdoing it and overly emotional, and yet still not believable because it just didn't seem like she was really feeling what she was doing.
Now on the flip side of that, Katherine Carpenter (oh my god she's hot) who played Bruce's girlfriend Rhonda, did a great job in playing the jealous and yet loving girlfriend. Her character felt a bit uneven at times but that can be attributed to the unevenness of some of her dialogue rather than to anything she did. Also, major kudos to David Maddox who played Bruce's friend Clifford. He was absolutely brilliant and a joy to watch. He has a wonderful acting talent and I really think that if he wants to, he could be a major star someday. Of everyone in this film, he was the most natural and funny and he just did a fantastic job.
Now with a film this long, you have to worry about the story falling apart. Fortunately, it didn't. Every time it felt like, "Hey there could be an ending here," there was another section that continued the story rather than making it feel like it was just being dragged out for the sake of length. As I was watching it, about half way through I checked the remain time and thought to myself, "Oh my god this is long! That can't be right!" But it was. And yet, the way it played out, just worked. As I said, some of the lengthy scenes of nothing with a song behind it could have been cut for the sake of length, but other than that it all worked out rather nicely.
Speaking of the music, there's a LOT of it in this film, and it's all really good. It's some of the best music I've heard in an independent film to date.
Basically, although this movie is long, it works. There are a few problems with the story and some unevenness in various bits of dialogue, but you can say that about most movies. Fortunately, the problems in this one aren't anything major and what we're left with is an interesting film with lots of great characters that you'll find yourself pulling for and hoping that things work out for them so they can all find happiness. It's definitely a movie worth seeing.
If you'd like to get yourself a copy of this film or check out any of director Garrett Gilchrist's other films, you can visit the Orange Cow Productions website at http://www.orangecow.org.