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Lather Effect, The (DVD Review)

18 May, 2008 By: David Greenberg

Street 5/27/08
Anchor Bay
$26.97 DVD
Not rated.
Stars Connie Britton, Tate Donovan, Ione Skye, Sarah Clarke, Peter Facinelli, David Herman, Caitlin Keats, William Mapother, Eric Stoltz.

The generation of teenagers who saw The Big Chill when it first came out 25 years ago are now thirty- and fortysomethings looking to reflect on their youth.

It comes as no surprise that a die-hard 1980s kid, writer-director Sarah Kelly, took inspiration from that dealing-with-middle-age film, as well as the coming-of-age movies of John Hughes. With The Lather Effect she tries to reconcile these two elements of late 20th century American cinema and form something of a hybrid.

With her clearly modest budget (nearly two-thirds of the film takes place in and around one location, a standard lesson from Indie Film Production 101) wisely spent on a large, bright, energetic and appealing ensemble cast, Kelly crafts an engaging multiplot tale that gradually reverses itself from being thick on '80s trivia, heavy on references to group nostalgia and rather light on genuine dramatic narrative. This ultimately results in some genuinely rich, moving moments in which realistically complicated characters get to stop, reflect and take stock of where they are, where they have been and where they might go.

Predictably iconic images of the era are trotted out as characters parade about in wardrobes that evoke “Miami Vice,” Madonna and Risky Business, with Facinelli in Ray Bans oddly looking more like Tom Cruise than Mapother, Cruise's own flesh and blood.

In one of the captivating featurettes, Kelly and Stoltz, who both stars and serves as associate producer, muse on the nature of being a production assistant.

Kelly PA'd on a few Stoltz films and he famously PA'd for Kelly's idol, Cameron Crowe, on Say Anything, which also starred The Lather Effect's Skye.

Kelly's undeniable feel for period authenticity extended, of course, to the vintage “Greatest Song Ever” soundtrack of the characters' youth and only serves to make the film stronger.

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