Monday, July 6, 2009

“Sassy” Outbursts And States Of Arrested Development…

It’s two minutes to air and only two-thirds of the talent is present and accounted for—looking bright-eyed, bright-toothed, and okay, somewhat smug in their news anchor chairs. The black X on the floor in front of the green screen just off to stage left is empty, leaving everyone wondering what is keeping the “sassy” weather girl. She finally storms in with mere seconds to spare; she is just as blonde and waify as the anchor she passes, though on her, it reads more as frailty. Instead of falling apart, though, her shaky tone only rises as she begins to rip into a live tirade about the other two, who just happen to be sleeping together. The crew laughs and keeps right on shooting. This all sounds like the daily behind-the-scenes of our local Fox affiliate morning news here in L.A., doesn’t it? But no, it’s the opening of Blayne Weaver’s new independent comedy, aptly titled Weather Girl. For all of the spectacle that Weather Girl opens with, though, the rest of the film proves to be much more understated: it is filled with more serious character moments than slapstick.

Weaver, who both wrote and directed Weather Girl, has a seemingly innate ability to create characters and situations that jump off of the screen with their vibrancy. Working on a miniscule budget, most of Weather Girl takes place in a cramped, somewhat dingy apartment when Sylvia (The New Adventures of Old Christine’s Tricia O’Kelley), the aforementioned perpetually deemed “sassy” title character, effectively ends both her relationship and her career in those few minutes she bursts out on live television. Left single, unemployed, virtually homeless, and on the wrong side of thirty, Sylvia ends up on her younger brother Walt (Ryan Devlin)’s doorstep needing a place to crash, a cold beer, and a warm shoulder. Add in Walt’s unassuming best friend Byron (Young Hollywood’s most promising up-and-comer Patrick J. Adams), who also happens to live across the hall, and Weather Girl quickly turns into a more modern Three’s Company.

Though there are quirky moments indicative of the independent medium, in many ways Weather Girl plays out like any old romantic comedy. Right when Sylvia meets Byron, it is clear that he has a thing for her, and in true filmic device, she naturally decides a fling would be just the thing she needs to try to get past the negative turn her life has taken. There are the usual obstacles: keeping her brother/his best friend in the dark, their age difference, yada yada yada, but it is clear where it will all end up. The fun is in watching these dynamic personalities get from A to B. Weather Girl is not a film with plot twists or flashy surprises; it is simply a story—one which this art form is often lacking lately.

In many ways (and despite a huge—if something fleeting—influx of bit player roles, like by the snarky Marin Hinkle and Alex Kapp Horner as Sylvia’s girl friends; Enrico Colantoni and Blair Underwood as underused ex-co-workers on the morning show; and Mark Harmon and Kaitlin Olson—who channels her inner Karen Walker to be that much more of a floozie—as the anchors who wronged her), Weather Girl seems to be created as a star vehicle for O’Kelley to showcase just how she (and any somewhat beaten-down woman she may play) can shine through adversity. While all of these names are nice “surprises” that unfold in just about one out of every three scenes, it is O’Kelley and her merry men (Devlin and Adams) who are the heart and soul of Weather Girl. Adams in particular challenges O’Kelley nicely with an impish wit that lends credibility to a character that otherwise could have been seen as just a Peter Pan-esque slacker.
In Weather Girl, Weaver casually drops technology into pivotal scenes and conversations, each time depicting that Sylvia’s spiral, in addition to her initial meltdown, is available for public consumption. She is on the Internet screaming profanities at co-workers, as well as saving a choking restaurant patron’s life. It is poignant commentary from an independent filmmaker—that our lives could be documented at any time, by anyone-- because more times than not while watching Weather Girl, the audience feels not like they are watching something big, grand, and untouchable unfold in front of them but rather that they are simply spying on their neighbors when they are at their most emotionally vulnerable.

Weather Girl opens in limited release this Friday, July 10, and will then be available on VOD and DVD in the fall.

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