Friday, March 14, 2008

The Best $15,000 They Spent...

In the SAG Ultra Low Budget (and it shows) independent screwball comedy, All Along, there is one actor who manages stand out among the bumbling group: Krista Allen portrays Sara, the therapist Richard Harrison (Bill Page) seeks out to help him deal with his midlife crisis fantasies, in and out of which he has a tendency to slip at the most inopportune times. In a film that relies on wacky costumes and stagy physical comedy, Allen's natural acting style jumps out as being that much more grounded and is the only reason to screen All Along in the first place.

They say actors need to have a certain amount of innate charisma-- a magnetism that will inherently draw others in-- and the filmmakers of All Along were smart enough to notice and try to capitalize on Allen's. Though between her day rate and the cost of traveling her to the Delaware location a good chunk of their meager budget most definitely got eaten up (hence the title of this article), they can be confident that more eyes will be on their little film just because of her star power. She's the only reason it crossed my radar, for example. Unfortunately, she is not enough to save it from the limbo that comes to poorly constructed films after the post-production process fails to fix all of their shortcomings.

Once a small time soap star, Krista Allen burst out of the daytime bubble in 1999 but stayed for awhile in the comfort of the small screen, initially getting typecast as the "sexy, sassy fill-in-the-blank" roles (such as the prostitute who matched wits with George Eads’ Nick Stokes on CSI) and then finally graduating years later to the "sexy, sassy mom" roles (like the recent turn on Cashmere Mafia as the stay-at-home mom who propositioned Zoe (Frances O’Connor)’s husband). She still succumbs to her looks but at least now with a bit more substance: reel life has started to imitate real life, and as she has matured, so have her roles.

All Along is by no means Allen's first foray into independent film either, though; she has quite a few similarly small potatoes, straight-to-DVD titles under her belt. In 2001 she starred in both Totally Blonde (a musical chick flick with Michael Bublé, Maeve Quinlan, and Mindy Sterling) and Face Value (a stolen identity thriller opposite Scott Baio). A few years (and many, many TV guest appearances later) came Shut Up and Kiss Me, the debut film from three guys who were first timers not only in their Above The Line positions but also to the film industry in general, and it showed in their product. Though they had somehow managed to wrangle an extremely talented cast (Brad Rowe, Kristin Richardson, Christopher Daniel Barnes), not even the actors’ collective years of experience could salvage a script that was so all over the place, the end didn't feel like a resolution but just the start of a new act.

Unfortunately, All Along seems to follow in Shut Up and Kiss Me’s footsteps when it comes to creativity, execution, and overall production value (or lack thereofs), which only leaves viewers scratching their heads to figure out why Allen would sign onto such a low caliber script at this stage in her career. Almost two years ago, for example, she carried Project Greenlight and first-time director John Gulager's Feast. In a film that readily sprayed the camera lens with blood and maggots, it was Allen's guttural, raw performance that made you believe the insane events could really be taking place. In a short ninety minutes, she went from beaten-down single mother to a crumpled, childless shell of her former self, to stoic, @$$-kicking warrior, and the audience in turn went on her journey much more so than any of the other, two-dimensional characters, feeling every blow (regardless of whether she was taking them or dishing them out) right along with her. Feast was Allen's best performance since 2004’s Unscripted, proving that although there is certainly something to be said for experience, sometimes the best moments come out of a rawness that can only be attributed to confidence in a pure talent.

Smack in the middle of her television heyday, Allen guested on both Smallville and Mutant X, playing the role of a supernatural siren that could control the men around her simply with her biological makeup. Were casting directors trying to say something about Ms. Allen and how she manages to infiltrate her presence into every major network program? Perhaps. I have worked with her on a few separate occasions, on very different projects, and have observed first-hand the seductive aura she innately gives off: everyone wants to get to know her, to hang out with her, to be able to call her a friend. It’s that inherent charisma that will make her successful in the long-term, as that characteristic transcends through the big and small screen alike; Allen’s original niche fan base from her Days of our Lives… (for lack of better word) days, for example, are still chugging along with her, tuning into every guest performance, no matter on how lame of a program (Fast Cars and Superstars, anyone?). And there is no doubt they will show up for her next role in the equally lame Final Destination 4 (yes, seriously, and it's supposedly in 3D!), which began shooting in New Orleans last month. Hopefully her sassy, take-charge attitude will lend a bit of credibility to yet another installment in a series that has been endlessly mocked (and justifiably so) by just about everyone of importance in pop culture. Unfortunately, who won't be showing up for such an asanine project are the people who need to start taking Allen seriously: writers, producers, directors, and casting agents, as the only thing of note Final Destination 4 is sure to take home is a bunch of Razzies.

And if for some reason you're still interested in catching All Along, it will be screening at the Digital Video & HD Film Festival on March 27 at 12:30 pm. Admission is free, and members of the film's production team will be represented during a Q&A session.

1 comment:

Lovebabz said...

Nice post. Very interesting!

I did my Tagged 7 random things today!