One Foot in the Gutter – Review

A bromance movie for guys who hate the word “bromance”

A lot of news has been made recently about director Kevin Smith’s slightly unorthodox method of distributing his new film Red State. Earlier this year, Smith traveled around the country, renting out theaters and giving his eager legion of fans a sneak peek at his latest creation. While what Smith did was nothing new (the idea is basically an updated version of the classic “four-walling” technique filmmakers have been using for decades), nothing like it had been done on such a large scale for such a well-known director in some time.

The process can work for anybody, Smith claimed. You don’t need an expensive marketing budget or fancy television spots to connect your film with an audience. Without getting into a debate about whether or not there’s truth in the idea that Smith’s business plan can translate to every filmmaker, there’s at least one director who is attempting something similar.

Justin Koleszar is currently touring the country with his new film, One Foot in the Gutter. An introspective and sometimes raucous look at the bonds formed from male friendship, Koleszar’s movie is good. It’s really good.

Geoff Stewart stars as Marshall Gray, a young man just passing the corner of when getting drunk and wild with your friends on a nightly basis ceases to be cute and starts hinting at a state of arrested development. It’s hard to grow up, though, when you are living in the Never Never Land of perpetual hangovers that comes with sharing a house with three of your best friends. Marshall, Marc (Benjamin Parslow), White (Zach Sanchez) and Daniel (Nick Ferrucci) spend their nights drinking, getting into fights and doing anything but cleaning up the shithole house they occupy. Basically, they’re exactly like every other group of young men who dwell in a shared enclosure.

Things tilt towards a change, though, when Marshall and Marc get into a car accident while intoxicated. Arrested and looking at a week in jail or three months in rehab, Marshall decides to leave town — leaving his friends and his perceived alcoholism behind as well. In his last night at home, Marshall’s roommates, joined by his younger brother who seems doomed to follow in Marshall’s footsteps, decide to throw a going away party — part reminiscence, part desperate plea to convince Marshall into staying.

Koleszar, who wrote the script in addition to directing, has captured the raw, real experience of spending time with a group of friends who are more brothers than buddies. The script, never overwrought with melodrama or sappiness, perfectly straddles the line between comedy and drama. Audiences will have no problem believing that the group of actors gathered for the film have been roommates for years. From the rowdy scenes of the actors drinking and playing with firearms — you know, the kind of stuff most guys do on a Saturday night — to the quiet, emotionally intense bits where secrets are laid bare and friendships tested, Koleszar has built a tightly constructed narrative where not a scene nor performance seems wasted.

The cast are all extremely likable — bringing excessive amounts of charm to even the most melancholy of scenes. The chemistry between the roommates is tangible — they are proxies for you and your friends, projected shadows of the viewer’s own experiences and relationships.

It’s not just the main cast either. Far too many independent films’ efforts are curtailed by an amateur performer that sticks out like a sore thumb. Impressively, One Foot in the Gutter fails to have even one unmemorable performance. From the adorable teenage girls the gang rounds up for Marshall’s last night to the gruff, unwavering prosecutor who informs Marshall of his options following arrest, One Foot in the Gutter has a fully fleshed out world of believable performances.

Cinematographer Ryan Kunkleman knows how to frame the hell out of a shot. Having to balance so many characters into a single frame could give the movie a claustrophobic feel — inadvertently making the story uninviting. Instead, Kunkleman uses an artist’s eye for lighting the set and placing of the camera to create a pleasant halfway point between a home video and a dirty John Hughes film.

Original score by Tobias Nathaniel helps give the film a well worn, lived in feel — akin to slipping on your favorite hoodie. Subdued yet emotive, the music keeps the film chugging along at an amenable pace — ensuring audiences never get restless or bored.

Koleszar has created a top-notch film worthy of distribution. As he seeks to let it swim the festival circuit, let’s hope a studio discovers One Foot in the Gutter. It has the same unexpected warmth and vulnerability shown in Another Earth and Sound of my Voice, this year’s dueling festival darlings starring Brit Marling. The nation’s audiences could only be so lucky to see Koleszar experience a similar rise to success such as Marling’s. One Foot in the Gutter is a film that demands to be seen.

Director: Justin Koleszar
Notable Cast: Luke Clements, Nick Ferrucci, Jesse Henderson, Benjamin Parslow, Zach Sanchez and Geoff Stewart
Writer(s): Justin Koleszar

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