Franklin (Dwayne Bartholomew) is the best wine salesman in Yakima Valley.
He doesn't particularly care.
In fact, Franklin doesn't really care about all that much because his life kinda sucks. Okay, it actually really sucks. Franklin is behind on his mortgage and about to lose his childhood home. His girlfriend, Charlene (Kristina Guerrero), is cheating on him. Coincidentally, Franklin has just become friends with a winery customer named Brad (Shawn Parsons), a seemingly nice guy who wants to exchange golf lessons for wine knowledge and who also just so happens to be the guy with whom Charlene is cheating. To top it all off, Franklin's attempts to rent out a room in his house have resulted in the appearance of Jackford (Nathan Sapsford), whose carefree approach to life at first conflicts with then compels Franklin.
Just released through a multitude of VOD outlets, including Amazon Instant Video, Cement Suitcase is billed as an "anti-romantic comedy," While Cement Suitcase may sound like any number of other lovable loser comedies that you've witnessed over the years, first-time feature filmmaker Rick Castaneda has crafted a definite winner vastly superior to any number of other similarly themed comedies including those bigger budgeted flicks coming out of Hollywood. While this is Castaneda's first feature film, he's not a newbie director and actually has a good 30 short films to his credit with his sketch comedy group Six Finger Fist, a group that can be found on Funny or Die, Youtube, and Crackle.
Cement Suitcase has just about everything you could want from an indie comedy, but it all really starts with a top notch performance by leading man Dwayne Bartholomew, a comedian out of the Bay Area with an absolutely terrific sense of comic timing and a likable screen presence that also adds a nice emotional heft to the film.
While it's not unheard of for an indie comedy to cast a solid lead, Cement Suitcase is well cast down to the smallest roles. Kristina Guerrero, a correspondent for E! News, gives such a sympathetic performance that you can't help but keep liking Charlene even early on in the film when all we really know about her is that she's cheating. As the abnormally friendly golfer, Shawn Parsons takes a role that could have easily been a caricature and really fleshes it out. Finally, former MTV Australia VJ Nathan Sapsford manages to do what many actors in Hollywood fail to do by turning what could have been your typical stock "wild man teaching life lessons" character into the kind of likable quirkster we used to see Bill Murray play early on his career.
Prior to hits VOD release, Cement Suitcase proved to be wildly popular on the film festival circuit including winning an Audience Award at Dances With Films, the Director's Choice Award at Gig Harbor Film Festival, and several other awards and official selections.
You can pick up Cement Suitcase from Amazon Instant Video right from this page, while it's also available through all the usual VOD outlets including Itunes, Vudu, Google Play, Youtube, and a host of other online/cablet outlets. If you're in the mood to laugh, feel good and support an indie filmmaker then Cement Suitcase is a film you won't want to miss.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic