5 Star Day

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3.5 stars out of five
by S. James Wegg
Publish Date: October 29, 2011
The joy of taking charge

There are few amongst us who haven’t scanned the astrology page to determine what might happen next—especially on our Natale day. But are the predictions entertaining bunk or predestined occurrences? As the topic for his final presentation in an Ethics class (and key to graduation, requiring an A—that fact is not in the stars) Jake Gibson decides to test his theory by tracking down three others who share his birthday (February 6, 1982 ~10:30 p.m.) and hospital (St. Joseph’s, Chicago) and discover if his fellow Aquarians have just endured the most miserable birthday of their lives too.

Losing job, car, babe and dwelling on what should have been a “Five stars” day seems to laugh at the notion of seeing the future one sign at a time. With just a long weekend (in every sense of the term) to meet his birth buddies, Gibson, marvellously aided and abetted by writer/director Danny Buday hops on a jet plane—abandoning Oakland for the windy city—to track down the first match on his list (culled effortlessly from the Internet, of course privacy concerns can never interfere with narrative determinants).

Immediately branded as a stalker by single-mom Sarah (Jena Malone in an affable outing as the tragic bride who soldiers on in spite of her drug-addicted husband’s infrequent purse raids), Jake manages to use his considerable charm and grade school staring game to get the skinny on Sarah’s day of days. Playing the pivotal role, Cam Gigandet brings a touch of Walter Mitty dreaminess to the screen but—hardly a criticism—makes for a miserable liar, thanks in no small part to Buday’s you-can-see-this-one-from-a-mile-away setups.

Behind door number two is Brooklyn Sudano (Yvette Montgomery): an ever-radiant youth worker whose relatively perfect life takes a decidedly unexpected turn on a rare night out. Frank Sinatra impersonator extraordinaire (beautifully voiced and creatively acted by Max Hartman) Wes Henderson completes the birthday bill, crooning nightly in Atlantic City (the telling notion of aiming for Broadway only to be perpetually stuck on the boardwalk is one of many commentaries slipped in along the journey). He is easily befriended by Jake and the music-loving pair (Allen Mezquida’s alto saxophone contributions are only topped by Hartman’s compelling scat) go on a bender as the instant buds mourn losses of all kinds.

Holding the fort in California and effectively gluing together some of the plot’s strands, roommate Will Yun Lee makes for an understanding barista whose scientific geekiness is a balancing foil to Jake’s romantic quest. In just three days, the ethics student tries to tap into the power of making choices rather than letting other influences (be they mathematical certainties—the Earth is flat, right?—or the confluence of celestial bodies) rule the course of action.

Reinforcing the action is a songbook whose lyrics speak volumes (“Where do we go from here”; “The best is yet to come”: “When your heart is barely breathing”) along with Ryan Beveridge’s original score which pays its musical respects to Radiohead progressions and accompaniments.

Don’t wait for your stars to ideally align before entering Jake’s suddenly upside-down existence: like him, you may learn that sucking it up and being proactive is simply out of this world. JWR

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Director/Writer - Danny Buday
Cinematography - Jason Oldak
Production Design - Megan Hutchison
Editor - Curtis Pierce
Original Music - Ryan Beveridge
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