For Mark Lewis, growing up in the nineties was pretty dank. Shot in eight days for ten thousand dollars, his movie Wild Girl Waltz claims to have gone for the feel of nineties indie films like Slacker (1991), Dazed And Confused (1993) and the much celebrated Clerks (1994), minus the expensive soundtrack, or a GamesMaster golden joystick. Regarded by many critics as one of the best Indies of the year so far, is it time to put on our dancing shoes – a pair of Nike Air Max 90, perhaps - or throw that once cherished Furby at the television set?
Tara (Samantha Steinmetz) and Angie (Christina Shipp) are bored of small time life. Deciding to liven up proceedings they escape the monotony by taking some ‘goofy pills’.
Over the course of the next few hours, Brian (Jared Stern) is stuck baby-sitting them until they come down from their righteous high. He takes them on a road trip more phantasmal than thoroughfare. Comedic mayhem ensues…
You must have some balls to compare your film to Clerks. Whereas Kevin Smith’s debut – about a day in the life of two convenience clerks – hit the mark with countless gags and on-the-ball observations, Lewis forgets the jokes for the main part but wins us over with three charismatic leads you would love to hang out with. For a while at least. Whether or not you take the goofy pills is entirely up to you, but in hindsight, using a pie for sweet revenge after an opening incident involving milkshake hardly justifies an 82-minute journey that covers the course of one uneventful road-trip.
The budget certainly doesn’t allow for much spectacle. Fortunately, most viewers will relate to one if not all of our leads, and Lewis is good with dialogue, showcasing an impressive and natural skill for banter that will eventually win you over. But it could just be a flimsy narrative that prefers improvisation rather than scripted exchange. The film certainly has a sitcom feel about it, which finally works once we have got to know our three leads that little bit better.
Although there’s no standout scene, or laugh out loud moments if we’re totally honest, there’s something quite charming about hanging out with Tara, Angie and Brian; rather like those people you meet on holiday, when on your return you add them on Facebook but never actually find that free date in your diary to meet up because, actually, they were dicks.
Angie is the biggest oddity. Forever haunted by a drive-by redneck pelting a milkshake in her face (feeling like “the floor of a movie theatre”), she doesn’t quite win over the audience like Tara and Brian do, helped by a quirky romance that feels more natural than those you see in everyday life. Brian, who in theory should be the least interesting character in the film (nobody likes the sober guy), is the most watchable, encouraged by some nice lines (I’ll give you a drink, an ass drink” isn’t one of them) and a brilliant speech about restraining orders after he’s punched a woman in the face. She deserved it.
A light comedy that’s light on comedy; a slice of life that isn’t riveting enough to warrant so much time spent on it, or money, Wild Girl Waltz struggles with a story without foundation, and ten minutes of film could easily be discarded thanks to unnecessary interludes of random footage interspersed with rather jolly country music. There is humour here, and credit has to be given to the director for allowing us to laugh along with the characters rather than at them all the time. That said there just aren’t that many one-liners to keep you entertained. It would have been nice to find out what happened to the guy with the pie. Instead, there’s a rather pointless confrontation between Brian and Ernie, a guy who owes him a lot of money. It offers nothing to the already twiggy plot and soon becomes a distant memory as the story moves forward.
Ernie is not the only character going nowhere. It may be Mrs Wolverton’s pie that eventually takes centre stage, but a five-minute conversation between her and the two girls is meaningless; they could have just bought the pie from a service station and at least had some fun with the convenience clerks (a chance wasted). More filler than killer, Wild Girl Waltz offers reward only when its three leads are on form; or perhaps, when Brian and Tara are on screen.
On the one hand, it’s heartening to see a director make a film in which not a lot happens. On the other hand… well, it’s not very exciting, is it? At its best, it’s like watching the funniest episode of Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, a British comedy television series that ran for ten years and had ten jokes in its entirety. At its worst, it’s like the Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps drinking game, in which you can only down a shot when somebody laughs. Still, it’s more effective than a goofy pill.
Despite its flaws – nothing happens, not very funny, too much filler – you won’t be able to bring yourself to entirely hate Wild Girl Waltz because (a) the three leads are endearing and (b) it does have some rather mawkish country music in it. And it will make you appreciate the simple things in life. And you will pull out your VHS copy of Clerks before emitting a wistful sigh. DW