It wouldn’t be fair to write about Derek Magyar‘s Flying Lessons, which opened the Santa Barbara Film Festival last night. I watched the first few minutes, but I had to leave to buy some cough syrup and spray. For some reason a slight cough caused by a throat tickle blew up into something worse yesterday. It was awful. So I got the damn cough syrup, came back, watched the film for another 20 or 25 minutes. And then I gave up.
I don’t have to watch a film for a half hour or 15 minutes, even, to know it’s not working. I can tell within two or three minutes. I knew Flying Lessons was in trouble within seconds. It’s one of those “who am I really?,” “I’ve made some mistakes,” “maybe I should wake up?” meditative dramas that makes you want to get a stiff drink — make that several drinks. Except I don’t like stiff drinks any more. A glass or two of wine is my limit.
But I needed to escape so I did, and I went across the street to a first-class Argentinian restaurant. Beautifully designed place, old Spanish flavor, etc.. And there, sitting at a small table with a friend, was Derek Magyar. And there I was my my press badge, so I didn’t say hello. Magyar is a youngish actor. Flying Lessons is his first stab at directing. The screenwriter is Thomas Kuehl. I know how difficult it can be to make a film even half-succeed, and I don’t want to be harsh or cruel.
So I kept my distance from Magyar and ordered my Pinot Grigio. I sat down at a table and struck up a conversation with a Swedish blonde who was wearing a long fur coat. And then a local friend, Rochelle Rose, dropped by and joined us.
I saw In Contention‘s Kris Tapley sitting in the last row of the Arlington Theatre about a half-hour into Flying Lessons, and noticed about 20 minutes later that he’d disappeared. And The Winner Is columnist Scott Feinberg didn’t like it much either.
Flying Lessons is about Sophie (Maggie Grace), a pissed-off 20something blonde whose life in Los Angeles hasn’t been working out due to a lack of talent and focus and drive, and an overabundance of boyfriend drama. She comes back to her hometown in the Santa Ynez Valley and proceeds to anesthetize each and every person she comes into contact with. She despises her alcoholic mom (Christine Lahti) and vaguely wants to get going again with a former boyfriend (Jonathan Tucker) and is looking for some kind of rooted something or other.
Flying Lessons felt flat, lacking in tension, under-energized, “acted.” Movies like this make want to jump off a 20-story office building. The highest building in Santa Barbara is seven or eight stories. With my luck I’d only break a leg or go into a coma.
For me, being with Maggie Grace’s character was awful. Grace is pretty, of course, and radiates the same haughty snot attitude (i.e., “I’m so bored by the idea of talking to you that I can barely summon the lung power to make the words come out”) that Megan Fox has built her worthless career upon. I can’t stand young women who can’t be bothered to look you in the eye and tell you the truth, whatever that may be. All I know is that I wanted to see Grace slapped, injured, kidnapped, attacked by a mountain lion, hit by a car, arrested for shoplifting…anything along those lines.
And I don’t want to see Tucker ever again, in anything. I’m sorry but that’s my reaction. If I run into him at a cafe I’ll get the food or coffee to go. If I see him at a Los Angeles DMV I’ll make another appointment.