Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Wait (2017)

Directed by Alex Withrow.
2017. Not Rated, 72 minutes.
Micah Parker
Nathan Stayton
Catherine Warner
Murielle Zuker
Andrew Bongiorno
Matthew Tully Brown
Leah Fredkin
Peter Hodge
Ansuya Nathan

One of the first movie blogs I read, besides my own, was And So It Begins... It is one of the most intelligent and informative blogs out there. The author, Alex Withrow, teaches us about effective film-making by talking about movies he loves. For instance, my favorite series of his, "No One Talks About," breaks down films in a way that's as close to frame-by-frame as a blog can get without being a complete bore. He highlights many of a movie's great shots, not just the most well known, and educates us all along the way. His passion for film doesn't just come across, it transfers to the reader. By the way, he was one of the first bloggers to reciprocate and show up around here.

If you already frequent his blog, and I hope you start if you don't, you also know that Alex isn't just some hack blogger like me. He, himself is a film-maker. He's made a pair of shorts, Full Circle and Earrings. In August, he announced he made his first full-length feature, Wait, and that it's available to watch on Amazon and iTunes. So I watched it.

The movie begins with a distraught young man who identifies himself as Christian (Parker). He tells another young man, whom we later find out is Dylan (Stayton), there's been an accident. Next thing we know, it's "months ago" and Dylan is having dinner with his fiancee Natalie (Zuker) and another couple. We find out one of his ex-girlfriends is famous actress Claire Marlowe (Warner) and that she got her start in a movie Dylan made. The two haven't spoken in years and is clearly still a sore subject for Dylan. After a short while longer with this set of folks we switch over to Claire, herself. Christian is her boyfriend, and apparently, her manager. She's doing press for her new movie, but doesn't seem all that thrilled about it, or Christian, for that matter. In fact, Claire tells a reporter that her first film, Dylan's, is still her best work. We're fairly certain we're talking about more than just the movie. From there, Wait switches back and forth between the two couples as their stories drift towards each other.

Wait sets its tone early, and sticks to it. It's achieved through a muted style of story-telling, complete with somber musical cues that manage to accent without feeling intrusive. The tone is also a product of the actors working hard to find the emotional core of the story. Our four principal characters are performed very well. Micah Parker gives the film's most fun performance. His character gets to do most of the "cool" things. He handles it in a manner that comes across as natural. This is in contrast with the film's lone poor performance, that of Graydon Stroud as Colin, one of the dinner patrons at the beginning. Colin is the movie's other fun guy. The difference being that we can see Stroud acting. His movements too pronounced to be intuitive. I don't mean to dwell on his work, but that of Parker who performs very well. Catherine Warner is just as good as Claire. She makes us really feel like a woman who doesn't want to be in the spot where she finds herself.

While Parker and Warner are solid, Nathan Stayton and Murielle Zuker, respectively as Dylan and Natalie, are even better. Stayton makes it so everything he hears regarding Claire is salt in an open wound. Zuker is right with him every step of the way. A late scene involving just the two of them is clearly the film's best, and for several reasons. It's the best acted, best written, best directed, and most emotional thing that makes it onto the screen. It's all raw feelings and conveys something the director is going for: honesty.

Speaking of the director, Withrow wears many hats for Wait. He produces, directs, edits, writes, and serves as cinematographer. I'm sure I'm missing a dozen more, but we'll stop there and lump the first two together. At these, he excels. Aside from wringing out strong performances from his cast, he maintains the consistency necessary to make it work. As the editor, he pulls the story together so that the two stories feel like part of a cohesive whole. His strongest work comes as cinematographer, beautifully framing a number of shots. Occasionally, he seems to be a bit too caught up in showing off the technical aspects. However, this is only a minor complaint as it does gives us some wonderful shots.

On the other hand, each of the jobs I praised him for suffer when the writing falters. The material he's penned has plenty of merit. The problem is that it's too sparsely written in some spots and over-written in others. The over-writing shows up in scenes that take too long to play out. I get that it's trying to let the characters breathe and make them more human, but several times we wonder when we're getting to the point of a particular scene. This causes some pacing problems even though the runtime is a thin seventy-two minutes. Wait is too sparsely written because it doesn't tell what has the potential to be the most interesting story in the film, that of David (Bongiorno). The film begs for more of a backstory for him aside from him screaming it out to himself. It could also use more of his involvement later, especially given that unlike his cast mates, Bongiorno is excellent without partnering with anyone else for most of his screen time. This runs the risk of detracting from the stories of our two couples, but done properly it could greatly benefit the film.

What is a great benefit is that the movie ends in a way that may not be agreeable to everyone. We are given something to debate. This makes it resonate in a way difficult for movies with neat, tidy endings. This ensures our viewing experience is a good one, if a bit on the nose to be what one would call enjoyable. However, I think that's what Alex is going for. He wanted to make an honest movie and he delivered one. Honesty is not always a barrel of laughs. It's a very good first feature and makes me look forward to see what he can do with a bigger budget and fuller script. I sincerely hope he gets the chance, if for no other than my own selfishness. Though I've never met him in real life, when he makes it big I'll still tell people "I knew him back when."


  1. I was hoping to purchase this film last month but I'm going to try to this month through an Amazon gift card instead of iTunes which I haven't been using lately. I do want to see this in support of Alex. I just wonder if there's any plans for a physical release as I'm still the kind of guy that likes to have a physical release for a film in this digital age.

    1. That's an Alex question. It is certainly worth the watch. Hope you get to see it.

  2. Great review! I keep meaning to grab an iTunes card so I can watch this. I'm psyched for Alex either way. Can't wait to see it.

    1. Thanks! I'm so glad he was able to get this out to the world.

  3. I haven't heard of this but it sounds interesting!

  4. Fair assessment Dell. Withrow didn’t have access to the most expensive equipment, but he did the best he could with the budget he had. Stroud’s acting style didn’t bother me, the way he spoke his lines I actually found entertaining and offbeat. But I can see where you’re coming from.
    Agree David (Bongiorno) could have had more screen time and development, and as I wrote in my review I felt Micah Parker was overused. Yep, we are given something to debate, and that is down to Alex’s writing.

    1. Yes, he did the best with what he had. Fair enough about Parker though I did like him.