It's difficult to describe the world that writer/director Nick Westfall creates in his latest feature film, the Dove-approved indie gem 8 Slices about the tribal spirits found working inside a smalltown pizza parlor called Patronies.
As we're introduced to the world of Patronies Pizza, the owner and boss (Justin M. Smith, The Birth of a Nation) is struggling to keep the establishment going even as a mysterious new hire, John (Jesse C. Boyd, The Choice), is set to begin.
While it may sound like 8 Slices is simply another variation on every other film we've seen about chasing the American dream, Westfall is no ordinary writer/director and 8 Slices travels in refreshingly unique directions throughout the vast majority of its 85-minute running time.
8 Slices is the kind of film that grabs you early on and doesn't let you go, its characters people you enjoy, or at least appreciate, spending time with and its story one that feels honest and brimming with integrity.
If you've ever worked for a company that had a culture all its own, you'll likely understand the world created at Patronies Pizza, a philosophy infused world where each employee is encouraged to immerse themselves in the philosophy and philosopher that resonates with their spirit. There's Schopenhauer (Erika Chase, Sick People), Knee Cha (Ethan Alexander McGee, Fist Fight), Albert Kamoo (Swift Rice, The Passage), Jack Berouac (Harrison Stone, Green Book), Ann Rann (Tyra Colar, Cougar Town), Cimone de Beavoir, Baby Mama), Wendy Wittgenstein (Sarah Jes Austell, Loserville), Guillermo (newcomer John Abraham), Ernie Hemingway (Paul E. Pittenger, Abraham's Conflict) and others.
While the story in 8 Slices could have gone horribly wrong, it never does thanks to Westfall's obvious clarity of vision, the unified and remarkably consistent cast, and Westfall's assured, disciplined direction. What seems, at least at first, a little quirky is ultimately the glue that holds this tribe together and has served each of these employees in different yet equally glorious ways.
As the outsider, Jesse C. Boyd does a tremendous job of creating a character you hate to love, you love to hate, then you simply don't know what to do with as his motivations are slowly revealed and his own guiding life philosophy becomes known and conflicts with the community that has, in very genuine ways, embraced him and been troubled by him. It's a difficult performance and Boyd pulls it off quite nicely.
For the most part, and not so surprisingly, the rest of the film is largely an ensemble effort in which each of the characters is given moments to shine yet they all truly shine the brightest when they are together. There isn't a weak performance among the entire cast, though Justin M. Smith's turn as the owner of Patronies and the unofficially official leader of this community has such an unabashed naturalness and warmth to it that you can't help but think to yourself "Man, I'd work for that guy in a heartbeat."
Brad Walker's lensing drives home the communal spirit that exists inside Patronies, yet also does a nice job of intimately following each character through their peaks and valleys.
8 Slices is a wonderful little film, a film that emphasizes intelligent, emotionally insightful storytelling over flights of fancy or anything resembling special effects. It's occasionally funny, frequently quite touching, unafraid to be challenging and never strikes a false note from beginning to end. By the end of 8 Slices, you'll begin to feel like each of these characters is ready to embrace the path ahead of them whatever that may be and wherever that actually leads them.
For more information on 8 Slices, visit the film's official website linked to in the credits. When you get a chance to catch it, and I'm confident you will, you should definitely take the time to check out this tremendous film.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic