It was about 15 minutes into Josh Hope's latest film, the accurately yet awkwardly titled The Life & Death of an Unhappily Married Man, that I found myself not so silently mumbling "I really don't want to watch the rest of this film."
Of course,I'm a film journalist and watching the entire film is part of the deal. Well, at least for most of us.
So, I hung in there.
The Life & Death of an Unhappily Married Man kicks off with an awful lot of the "unhappily" part, Riley (Tommy Beardmore, Chicago PD, Kill Game) is, you guessed it, an unhappily married man who seems perpetually irritated by his wife and stereotypically miserable in a job where he's surrounded by stereotypically irritating cube mates.
Have you caught on that there's already an awful lot of "irritating" for the first 15 minutes of a film?
Of course, it may not prove surprising that Riley is, in fact, much of the problem in a life that has gone incredibly wrong. It may also not prove incredibly surprising that it's not long before this life, as miserable as it is, is stripped away from Riley he's left trying to figure out where everything went wrong.
Writer/director Josh Hope's The Life & Death of an Unhappily Married Man picked up the Audience Award at the Twister Alley Film Festival. Beardmore also picked up the prize for Actor of the Year at the festival. The film is scheduled next for the Austin Revolution Film Festival from September 23 - 27th, though you should probably watch the film's website as it's not uncommon for festival appearances to pop up rather spontaneously.
The Independent Critic received a producer's cut of the film, which essentially means that color correction is still going on and credits have yet to be added, but the guts of the film are completed and it's deemed ready for review by those experienced enough with moviegoing to not freak out over what's left to be done.
Produced by Hope's L.A. based Olive Entertainment, The Life & Death of an Unhappily Married Man was shot primarily in Chicago yet in many ways location is unimportant as the film is much more about journeying through one's past in an effort to heal the present and protect the future.
Beardmore is most effective in the film's more relaxed and comfortable scenes. He has an easy rapport with his co-stars especially, I must say, the young women who seem to easily shed their clothing along his journey. The film's earliest scenes, on the other hand, serve more to establish Riley as a petulant and immature child whose incessant whining makes him less sympathetic and makes me a whole lot less invested in the journey that's about to follow.
Thankfully, the journey improves once Riley actually is actually away from the people and places that are seemingly sucking his soul. He has a few encounters along the way, some funny and some enlightening and, of course, it all leads him to where he is supposedly meant to be.
Yet, there was this aching feeling deep inside of me that said "I bet he's miserable again in another five years."
Among Beardmore's supporting players, there are a few stand-outs including a relatively quick yet winning appearance by Sandy Gulliver, an always welcome Rusty Schwimmer, the entertaining Sean Patrick Leonard, and Kate Froehlich, who takes a fairly typical scene and makes it mean something.
I wanted to like The Life & Death of an Unhappily Married Man more than I did, mostly because it seems that all the ingredients are there to make an easygoing yet memorable indie film about relationships and life's journey. Yet, after deciding a few minutes into the film that Riley's self-fulfilling prophecy of a life wasn't really worth my time it took me a while to swing back into his corner.
Who knows? Maybe I'm wrong. After all, when you kick off your festival run with an Audience Award you're obviously doing something right. Regardless, you should see it for yourself. Josh Hope is an up-and-coming indie voice and it'll be interesting to watch where he goes from here.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic