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Jefferson Root Written by Jefferson Root
Jun. 19, 2010 | 3:31 PM

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LA Film Fest Review:  HELLO LONESOME

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Loneliness is no joke, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be funny.  Adam Reid proves that point repeatedly in his debut feature Hello Lonesome, which will have its World Premiere next week at the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival.  Focusing on three separate stories and six distinctive characters, the film is filled with moments of wry humor while never losing sight of how tough it is at times to be alone.

Reid cuts the subject down to size by creating a group of sharply defined characters who are all dealing with their solitude in different ways.  The film begins with a resonant baritone describing the nesting habits of Bowerbirds.  After a series of grainy television images, the camera pulls back to reveal Bill Soap (Harry Chase), a voice over artist at work.  Pulling back further, we realize he works from home, in his underwear.  On the surface, it seems like a perfect job.  Bill can set his own hours, and his gorgeous home in the country let us know he’s well compensated for his dulcet tones.    Digging deeper, we begin to see that all the money in the world can’t quite make up for the wife who’s left, or the daughter who won’t return a phone call.

The second story is drenched in nostalgia, which turns out is not all it’s cracked up to be.  Eleanor (Lynn Cohen) has had lot of happy years with her husband Edward and their cherished Ford Thunderbird.  But time moves on, and age catches up with us all.  Edward has passed away, and the DMV has refused to renew Eleanor’s license because she can’t see like she used to.  She’s forced to sell the T-Bird to an unworthy buyer, and is reduced to having to rely on her much younger neighbor Gary (James Urbaniak), a copy editor who’s nursing his own wounds after a divorce.

Finally we meet a young couple who find each other through the strange and modern world of online dating.  Immediately establishing a rapport over the phone, Debby (Sabrina Lloyd) and Gordon (Nate Smith) meet in the real world and discover that their actual chemistry is just as strong.  Gordon’s lately become obsessed with internet sports book betting, and his new success in love seems to be living proof of his hot streak online., but no one stays hot forever.

Hello Lonesome succeeds largely on the strength of its terrific cast.  Harry Chase is a real voice over actor (afficionados of the craft may recognize him from Captain Morgan ads among many others), and he brings a convincing authenticity to his very first onscreen role.  It also doesn’t hurt that Reid has given him consistently hilarious voice over copy for his scenes in the studio.  Lynn Cohen and James Urbaniak are utterly charming together, whether they’re eating fondue together or cuddling up the way Eleanor used to do with her husband.  Best of all are Lloyd and Smith, who never hit a false note in their portrayal of a thrilling new love that’s forced to grow up too fast.

Each of the characters have their own way of staring down the void.  Bill is so desperate for human contact he begs his local delivery man to come and hang out with him, which turns out later to be a very savvy move indeed.  Gary enjoys Eleanor’s company more than he ever thought he could, and Debby and Gordon cling fiercely to each other.  By the time the credits roll, the void’s still there, but everyone has taken concrete steps to push it further away.

Reid makes a conscious choice not to allow the stories in Hello Lonesome intersect, but the script has such a strong sense of thematic unity that we never fail to see that these characters are fighting their way through the same lonely world.

Hello Lonesome
screens at the LA Film Festival on June 22nd at 10:15 and June 23rd at 5:30 at the Regal Cinemas at LA Live.