The latest film from writer/director Michael P. Noens (Two Days in February, Darren & Abbey), Beautiful Brooke premiered at Chicago's Music Box Theatre on March 9th ahead of its tour through the indie fest scene.
Beautiful Brooke tells the story of, you guessed it, Brooke (Annie Rix), a, you guessed it, a 25-year-old beauty with a long history of broken relationships and a complete lack of insight into what exactly (HINT: It was her!) has broken them.
I have fancied myself a major fan of Noens' first two films, Two Days in February and Darren & Abbey, the latter a particularly strong relational drama possessing all of the emotional resonance and authenticity that is, unfortunately, lacking in the formulaic and emotionally hollow Beautiful Brooke.
While Noens attempts to take Beautiful Brooke into unique places, particularly toward the end of the film, Beautiful Brooke never feels less than completely familiar and the key character, despite being handled by the immensely talented Annie Rix, never becomes the compelling soul she needs to be for the audience to care whether or not she gets this all figured out.
In the absence of a compelling central character, Beautiful Brooke seemingly merely floats from set-up to set-up, some more involving than others, but the majority feeling like manufactured conflicts amongst self-absorbed millennials whose attention span is slightly longer than it takes the average guy to have an orgasm.
The film most benefits in those scenes between Brooke and Helen (Caty Gordon), her long-suffering and slightly devious bestie who is played to near perfection by Caty Gordon (Robot Club, Darren & Abbey).
The inevitable challenge in a film like Beautiful Brooke is to allow for Brooke's introspective searching without turning the film into a journey that feels self-absorbed or even narcissistic. While Beautiful Brooke never quite crosses that narcissism line, it frequently dances awfully close to it with D.P. Tony Schiavone's frequent use of close-up shots coming off as more intrusive than intimate and muting the film's efforts at quirky romantic comedy. On the flip side, however, Schiavone's occasional use of wide-lensing to capture rather extraordinary Chicago skyline shots is never less than extraordinary.
Rest assured that for some Beautiful Brooke may very well play out as the quirky romantic dramedy that it's intended to be and, in fact, my guess is that Brooke herself will feel familiar to those who've ever understood the world in which they live and the layers of life that have helped to create it. The kind of film that you find at indie film fests, Beautiful Brooke is a familiar journey given a few new twists by Michael Noens that never quite convinces and, knowing Noens at least minimally well, becomes the film it's intended to be.
For more information on Beautiful Brooke, visit the film's website linked to in the credits.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic