ECHO PARK(director: Robert Dornhelm; screenwriter: Michael Ventura; cinematographer: Karl Kofler; editor: Ingrid Koller; music: David Rickets; cast: Susan Dey (May Greer), Thomas Hulce (Jonathan), Michael Bowen (August), Christopher Walker (Henry Greer), Shirley Jo Finney (Gloria), Heinrich Schweiger (August’s Father), Timothy Carey (Vinnie), John Paragon (Hugo), Cassandra Peterson (Sheri); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Walter Shenson; Atlantic; 1986-Austria/USA)
“Offers sympathy for the outcasts and freaks living on the fringe of American society.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The title indicates a shoddy Los Angeles neighborhood where the film’s trio of protagonists dwell, as the area is popular with struggling artist types because of its cheap rents. An aspiring actress (Susan Dey) and aspiring songwriter (Thomas Hulce) are roommates, and their neighbor is an aspiring professional body builder (Michael Bowen), as they live only for their big career break. Romanian-born, Vienna-trained Robert Dornhelm brings a certain Milos Forman quirkiness to the fray and offers sympathy for the outcasts and freaks living on the fringe of American society. The screenwriter was Michael Ventura, who elicits a character driven script that is at its best when it remains unaffected.
Dey is a single mom, working as a bar waitress, and also delivers stripper-grams, who to help with the rent takes in pizza deliverer Hulce as a boarder after placing an ad in the newspaper. Hulce needs help on his deliveries and gets it from Bowen, who did a deodorant commercial and dreams of movie stardom like his fellow Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger. Dey and Bowen have a casual on-again, off-again relationship based on loneliness and sex rather than true feelings of love. Dey soon takes a shine to Hulce, and her eight-year-old son (Christopher Walker) sees him as his missing father figure. This turns into the poor man’s Jules and Jim, as from this scenario small dollops of bittersweet comedy emerges amidst the dreamers and free-spirited trio trying to make a mark for themselves while they’re still young. It offers no significant insights, but a lot of chatter and predictable sitcom type of emotions that are sometimes on the mark. Watchable when observing the characters interact, but unwatchable when it tries to get dramatic.
REVIEWED ON 1/23/2004 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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