Tuesday, December 12, 2006
A Guide to Recognizing Anachronisms
By Edward Copeland
The old adage says "Write what you know" and I guess that applies to movies as well, but it helps if what you are telling doesn't seem like some kind of Frankenstein's monster, stealing parts from better movies here and there. It also hurts when your movie constantly belies its own chronology.
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, the autobiographical tale written and directed by Dito Montiel, a former musician, doesn't move forward more than a scene or two before it reminds you of better films from Mean Streets to Saturday Night Fever. The film is narrated by Robert Downey Jr. as a grown Dito in 2006 flashing back 20 years to when he was portrayed by Shia LaBeouf.
Though the film claims to be set in 1986, you can't tell it from the film itself, where all the cars seem to be from the 1970s and every single pop song that plays on the soundtrack — from Elton John to John Sebastian to Gerry Rafferty — were hits in the 1970s. Sure, there is a line of dialogue referring to Lionel Richie's "Hello" video, but that honestly is the closest the film comes to acknowledging that it is supposed to take place in the 1980s.
On top of these anachronisms, most of the characters seem to be dressed out of the 1950s. The time discrepancies even extend to characters as a teen played Melonie Diaz, who in real life was born in 1984, grows 20 years later into Rosario Dawson, who was born in 1979.
While I know the cast has talent, including the wasted Chazz Palminteri and Dianne Wiest as Dito's parents, the story seems like such a retread that it's truly a chore to sit through even though it's less than 100 minutes long.
Like many indie films in this genre from first-time filmmakers, many critics have a tendency to overpraise the work instead of acknowledging that independent doesn't automatically equal good and first-time filmmaker doesn't always mean prodigy. A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints should best be forgotten.