For his début feature, David Spaltro has served notice that he is a filmmaker to be reckoned with. Few first-timers have been able to marry plot and characterization with a cast and crew that is on the same page and skill set as the auteur. Fine-tuning the structure, pace and scene length will develop as future projects come along—hopefully financed by savvy producers who can see what lies ahead.
The Jersey Boy, Doyle (Robert W. Evans serves up the pivotal role with unerring style, excellent comedic timing and the ability to smooth over the rare uneven moments—the Brit and his buds in the seedy pub failing to rise to the occasion for a fight defies both pride of heritage and beer-fuelled testosterone), drives the action. He’s abandoned a broken home, dead-end prospects and crossed the Hudson to enrol in film school and make his own beginning-middle-and-end stories.
Strapped for cash, tuition is financed on numerous credit cards, food is stolen when required (another flaw, similar to Wendy and Lucy—cross-reference below) and lodging becomes the Penn Central station where he soon becomes one of the boys (in the best Steinbeckian sense). Chief amongst his new mates is Saul. Ron Brice is superb as the extra-literate career homeless whose wit and wisdom belie his circumstances but also subtly explain why his home address will never be fixed. Indeed, the melting pot of one of the world’s largest transportation hubs establishes a universality that will resonate in any country or culture.
As the love interest, Allyson, Molly Ryman utilizes her beauty, personality and emotional range to convincingly foil Doyle’s struggle for, by and with himself. Their first meeting is a hoot: suddenly smitten in an elevator, Doyle sneaks into the blonde bombshell’s life-drawing class only to discover she’s the subject du jour. Caught in the lie, his better-than-average talent avoids the pervert label and discreetly reinforces the theme of believing in your art.
As the years fly by, there’s much zany humour while Doyle learns his craft and desperately attempts to make ends meet (a part-time job at a low-end restaurant features a no-English kitchen and the chance to serve up his own sausage during an impromptu girls’ night out), but the real drama unfolds in the garden state.
The early-scenes' back-story shows young Doyle’s (engagingly played by Steven Grgas) love for his sister, Lizzie (Ali Tobia) and stoic acceptance of his parents’ divorce—not even shaving, he’s soon the man of the house. Berenice Mosca as the long-suffering mother is a triumph in the slight but central part. As is so often the case, the natural enmity between mother and son (especially when Doyle opts to move out and dare to live life without her care and nurture) is only resolved at the 11th hour, leaving no time to build on the new-found truth. Here’s to more from Mosca.
Along the journey, others—new friends and old—flit in and out of the filmmaker’s life, but most of that interaction engenders more yuks than ahas, divertingly treading water until the film-within-the-film is screened.
No spoilers here, but suffice it to say that if this visual plan and economy of ideas could be transformed into feature length, then Doyle/Spaltro’s future could permanently discard the rose-coloured glasses. JWR