(director/writer: Todd Berger; cinematographer: Nancy Schreibe; editor: Franklin Peterson; cast: Blaise Miller (Pete), Erinn Hayes (Emma), David Cross (Glen), Julia Stiles (Tracy), Kevin M. Brennan (Buck), Rachel Boston (Lexi), America Ferrera (Hedy), Jeff Grace (Shane), Laura Adkin (Jenny), Todd Berger (Hal), Rob McGillivray (Gordon), Jesse Draper (dog walker; Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Kevin M. Brennan/Gordon Bijelonic/Jeff Grace/Datari Turner/Brett D. Thompson; Oscilloscope Laboratories; 2012)

“A smart character-driven droll comedy disaster pic.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Writer-director Todd Berger (“The Scenesters“) presents a smart character-driven droll comedy disaster pic that’s set in LA. A winsome ensemble cast does wonders with the subdued comedy.

The LA suburban house living marrieds, Pete (Blaise Miller) and Emma (Erinn Hayes), for the last 8 years, host their usual monthly Sunday “couples brunch.” Attending is the host couple’s long-time friend and brunch regular, the thirty-something Tracy (Julia Stiles), a doctor, with her new boyfriend she recently met online, a 42-year-old 4th grade parochial school Bible history teacher Glen (David Cross), who is new to the group and impresses as someone who is polite to a fault and is a conversational bumbler who can’t get out of his own way but tries hard to be agreeable with everyone. Tracy complains all her boyfriends turn out to be crazies, while this one might be a keeper because he seems so normal and safe. The other regulars attending are the heavily tattooed playful musician Buck (Kevin M. Brennan) and his free-spirit pretty wife Lexi (Rachel Boston), the long-time engaged couple of science high school teacher Hedy (America Ferrera) and her live-in bf, a pop culture fancier and worry-wort named Shane (Jeff Grace). Everyone in the disparate group is neurotic, bourgeois and has their own accented issues to deal with. Before brunch is served we hear of their infidelities, domestic disputes and that the host couple is divorcing.

Things take a different turn when the neighbor Hal (Todd Berger), dressed in a hazmat suit, drops in to inform Pete that dirty bombs were dropped in LA by unknown terrorists and the city is in an emergency lock-down. Under the imminent apocalypse conditions, things get darker and friendships come into question and some damaging emotional things explode in the open. Meanwhile it’s learned that nerve-gas was released by unknown terrorists and the end looks inevitable. The friends try to find ways to make their last hours on Earth more bearable, but their ways seem questionable.

The pic runs out of gas with a last twist which felt artificial. But it’s always lively and its pathos is well-measured, and is a film I enjoyed much when it was reasonably wacky.