Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Movie with Abe: Asthma


Asthma
Directed by Jake Hoffman
Released October 23, 2015

Movies are often framed by the way in which their protagonists experience the world. If they do not perceive their interactions with others as worthy of their time and they walk through life in a constant haze created by some combination of drugs and medication, their cinematic story may reflect that worldview. In “Asthma,” which follows a heroin addict named Gus (Benedict Samuel) who steals a car in New York City and brings a tattoo artist (Krysten Ritter) along for the ride, the universe seems contained to that which is affecting Gus and the wild journey on which he is on.

Neither Gus nor his traveling companion, Ruby, are particularly motivated people. In the beginning of the film, Gus opts to cut a painting job short and try to kill himself, an attempt that does not succeed and prompts him instead to find a nice classic car on the street and start driving it around aimlessly. A chance meeting with the alluring Ruby and a blunt pickup line seem at first like they won’t lead anywhere, but when he runs into her on the street in his car the next day, a short and painless train ride to a client in Connecticut turns into a much longer journey thanks to a car wreck, lost service, and a sizeable walk that might not be as daunting for two more effort-inclined people.

The moments at which “Asthma” is most effective are when Gus and Ruby are alone together, entranced in their own world in a seemingly endless drive to New England from Manhattan. The film’s brief runtime – ninety minutes – is augmented by the focus put on that drive and on the solitary moments that Gus and Ruby share together. When they are around other people, Ruby turns into much more of a social butterfly while Gus retreats within himself and shuts off the world. Spending time with a bunch of hippies in rural Connecticut feels like it should be just the place for them, but it turns out that the vibe just can’t jive with Gus’ directionless nature.

Samuel has a certain look to him that makes him the perfect fit to play Gus, and the attitude he brings along with him works well too. Ritter is always immensely appealing thanks to the signature energy she brings to the roles she takes on, and while she is dependably good, this is far from her most formidable or impressive part. This film, like its characters, starts off on an interesting journey, but it doesn’t take them anywhere too startling or memorable. The fleeting nature of their escape contains much meaning but doesn’t translate to a fully rounded film.

C+

1 comment:

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