Diane Guerrero, Evalena Marie, Dan Liebman
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Rebecca R. Rojer
The undergraduate thesis of writer/director Rebecca R. Rojer, Ashley/Amber is a dark comedy centering around Ashley (Diane Guerrero), a young woman whose complicated grief for her soldier boyfriend leads her to seek a temporary escape from her pain by becoming Amber Jones, start of an internet porn video. On the very same day as her porn shoot, Ashley attends a meeting of anti-war activists and, encouraged by co-worker Winona (Evalena Marie), agrees to speak out at an upcoming rally. When her fiery, impassioned speech at the rally wins her praise and ends up on online, Ashley's two worlds collide and Ashley is challenged to reconcile her loss while experiencing her 15 minutes of fame.
Rojer, a recent graduate of Harvard College, has managed to pull off a challenging dark comedy within the short span of 22-minutes largely thanks to her intelligent script and Guerrero's winning performance. Ashley/Amber was nominated for the Golden Berlin Bear at the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival, and has also played at festivals in New Jersey, Cincinnati, Virginia and Toronto in addition to New York. The film picked up the prize for Best Student Film at the 2011 New Jersey International Film Festival.
Ashley/Amber is a darkly satirical film that asks the essential question "What does it take to get America's attention?" Having viewed the film on the same weekend as the funeral for Whitney Houston, it was a question I found myself contemplating quite often this weekend as I reflected on just how America chooses its idols, role models and such. Rather than going over the top with the comedy, Rojer wisely allows the film to play out naturally. While this approach may mute some of the potential for genuine laughs, it also makes the film a far more satisfying and impacting one.
Diane Guerrero is terrific as 19-year-old Ashley/Amber, a character who'd be right at home in the midst of a Todd Solondz film. She's surrounded by a strong ensemble cast that seems to be right in step with Rojer's vision for the film. Rest assured, while the film is dark and humorous you can also tell that Rojer is quite serious about her message but has found a creative, intelligent and effective way to get her point across. While there are times when the film's lower budget hinders the film, especially with the sound mix, Ashley/Amber serves up a unique cinematic voice I'll be looking forward to hearing from again.
For more information on Ashley/Amber, visit the film's website listed in the credits.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic