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Drinking Games / From the Head


No budget? No problem!

Rod Lott August 15th, 2013

For no-budget cinema, the single location is a godsend. Set a movie entirely or mostly in one spot — one room, even — and you jussssst might be able to afford to put your thinly veiled autobiographical story onto film (OK, technically video). Such is the case for two new indie offerings: Drinking Games and From the Head.

drinkinggames
Not the psychological thriller it pegs itself as being, Drinking Games takes place largely in a college dorm room the night of Snowmageddon, the big party before winter break. Richard (Blake Merriman, who wrote it) is writing a paper and dealing with a family tragedy, whereas his roommate, Shawn (Nick Vergara), wants to use their dreary box of a room to party with no-good pals. Shawn's pressured by Noopie (Rob Bradford), a boorish asshole in a pink knit polo who seems to be majoring in cocaine cutting and date raping.

Although it starts out funny, the movie ultimately is a drama — and a smart, incisive one at that. While a couple of the supporting performances aren't up to the level of the leads, Merriman nails the misery of dorm life (an oxymoron too many). I want to see more from him and his co-writer, director Ryan Gielen, even if they dredged up some depressing memories in the process.

"Depressing" really qualifies to From the Head, writer/director George Griffith's film based on his days working as a men's room attendant in New York City strip clubs. Starring as Shoes, which one assumes is himself, Griffith stands guard over the sinks and urinals, dispensing advice, jokes, toiletries and an ear to the various lowlifes catching a piss before heading to the VIP room.

With customers coming in and out (Matthew Lillard and Jon Polito among them, to lend name value and energy), not to mention the occasional stripper (plumbing issues; don't ask), From the Head very much feels like a filmed play. Whereas Drinking Games is based on stage work, it better translates its tale to the screen; Griffith's is served flat, bubbling up only every so often, most notably with every appearance of Saw VI's Samantha Lemole, who displays a gift for effervescence. I'd rather see a film just about her character, because Shoes sure can grate, but it's an admirable first try. —Rod Lott



 
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