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The Independent Critic

Tara Cardinal, Benedict Ives, Karen Ross, Debra Cassano, Jeanne Tidwell
Manuel Montenegro
 "Genius" Review 
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This is awkward.
No, really. It is.
I suppose I set myself up for this one...I really shouldn't be reviewing "Genius," a low-budget indie flick featuring promising newcomer Tara Cardinal.
You see, in all honesty, while I've never actually MET Tara, I've e-mailed, chatted online with and interviewed her. As a result of our contacts, she's become a spokesperson for my non-profit organization.
She's a wonderful human being.
This IS a conflict of interest.
Oh, geez. What's an ethical film critic to do?
The word that kept coming to mind as I watched "Genius" was potential...
As Alana Gruber, a celebrated soprano returning home to Fort Lauderdale for a benefit concert, Tara Cardinal ("Delivery" and the upcoming "Legend of the Red Reaper") displays remarkable potential in several of the film's quieter scenes of introspection and listening.
Despite production values that served as a near constant reminder of the film's low budget, writer/director Manuel Montenegro shows remarkable promise, most notably with the written word. In a sense, the film's obviously intelligent script was, at times, betrayed by its low-budget. In fact, it brought to mind last year's rather stunning documentary "Shakespeare Behind Bars" in the way Montenegro attempted to accomplish great things while working with so little.
While I cannot, in good conscience, rate "Genius" highly or even offer it a true recommendation, it is in many ways the sort of film I enjoy the most. "Genius" contains within it, despite its production quirks and undeniable lackings, the true spirit of independent cinema...A filmmaker doing all he can with everything he's got, an up-and-coming actress giving us glimpses of the brilliance yet to come, a supporting cast (including the equally promising Benedict Ives, Debra Cassano and Jeanne Tidwell, among others) giving it their all not even knowing for sure whether or not their film will ever see the light of day. Filmed on a paltry $14,000 budget, "Genius" is a labor of love and passion and creativity.
"Genius" may not be a brilliant film, but it is most certainly the symbolic lifeblood of a Hollywood studio machine desperate for originality, creativity and heart somewhere in the sea of mindless sequels and mind-numbing horror porn that seems to dominate the big screen these days.
I suppose this isn't as awkward as I had imagined.
I have just viewed and reviewed one of the early works of a dear, dear friend. As she does in every area of her life, she and her castmates and crewmates have given "Genius" their hearts and souls.
And so it is with life.
Each aria that flows together to create our life journey is filled with notes of joy and triumph and tragedy and disappointment. Each note is, in turn, an absolutely precious and priceless jewel as necessary as the one that precedes it and the one that follows. "Genius," while perhaps disappointing from a critical perspective, is but one note in a lifetime of arias for the actors, actresses, director and crewmembers.
Here's hoping that the promise that is contained within "Genius" continues to manifest as a lifetime of arias for this promising soprano and these other unusual folks.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic