Manny (Edgar Muniz), Tess (Mo Shirazi) and Ray (Nicholas Null) are ordinary men. Or maybe not.
Manny, Tess and Ray have jobs, girlfriends and live what could seem to many as ordinary lives of macho male camaraderie and faux confidence wrapped tightly around their raging insecurities, self-absorption, narcissistic bullshit and egocentric relationship tendencies that will either become a permanent way of life or will completely fuck them over.
Which one will it be?
With On Parade,
co-writer/director and co-star Edgar Muniz has created yet another of his trademark character-driven tales that explore the human experiences in ways universal and painfully intimate. Through the eyes of these three men and the women who try to love them, or at least fuck them, Muniz has crafted a journey that is likely to feel uncomfortably familiar to most men who have made it to their mid-30's still successfully avoiding the "C" word (Commitment, in case you're still guessing).
From the outside, these three men may seem to be confident, intelligent and even successful. Yet, once these guys find themselves on parade it becomes abundantly clear that Manny, Tess and Ray struggle constantly with maintaining any semblance of a healthy relationship. Instead, they hide behind their fears and insecurities with crass humor, sarcasm and sexual prowess disguised as vulnerability.
The film's most interesting and involving storyline involves that of Manny and girlfriend Patty (Laura Benson), whose five-year relationship is showing signs of growing stale. Manny has developed an interest in porn while also taking a certain glee in instigating arguments with his Patty, who mostly seems to long for a return to comfortable intimacy. Muniz and Benson have worked together previously, and their obvious comfort with one another creates a powerful chemistry onscreen that makes their scenes together feel more heartbreaking and beautiful.
There is a scene of conflict that is so simple yet so beautifully carried out that I was awestruck by its power. It occurs when Manny and Patty have returned to their apartment in a state of passion, but as occasionally happens in relationships a simple gesture by one partner is met by resistance by the other. Suddenly, what began with much excitement and passion has spiraled into rejection and hurtful words. The look on Patty's face as Manny walks off with one more verbal twist of the knife in the back is simply devastating.
Ray, on the other hand, has always been a comfortable and casual man with a playful relationship and an easygoing sense of self. When his insecurities cause him to re-evaluate his lifestyle, Ray begins working out and adopting a decidedly more serious attitude that begins to change virtually every aspect of his life. As Ray, Nicholas Null carries a Mark Wahlberg type swagger that goes infinitely deeper as he undergoes his changes and their impact on his everyday relationships. Gabriela Maruri shines, as well, as the girlfriend with whom he shares a changing relationship.
Mo Shirazi, familiar to fans of Muniz's last film Someone Else in the Evening,
tackles a more complex role here as Tess, the trio's playboy who sorta, kinda may be tiring of his playboy ways and getting creeping insights into the creepiness of his behavior. Tess has always enjoyed the company of multiple women, including a beautiful blond student (Colleen Boag) and an internet prospect. It's when Tess travels to meet his prospective internet encounter that he has time to reflect upon his non-committing ways and realizes the times just may be a changing.
The believable camaraderie of our three central characters helps to drive home what can be, at times, a bit of a trying film to watch being that we're essentially spending 90+ minutes watching three jackasses either get their act together or watch them completely fall apart. For those who require escapism to be part of their cinematic experience, these three jackasses On Parade
may not be the most obvious choice. Yet, one of the gifts that Muniz possesses is his ability, along with co-writer Seth Johansson, to create characters who are judged as neither good nor bad. They are simply fully human beings with all the quirks, weaknesses, strengths and vulnerabilities that come with being human. While you may not necessarily always "enjoy" watching On Parade,
you will always appreciate the authenticity of their stories as they unfold.
Christian Smith and Raul Guereque share the camera work for On Parade,
nicely capturing both the male swagger and the multi-layered dynamics of the men and their relationships. Lucas Maldonado's original music complements the film nicely, though the sound level seemed a bit high in spots and distracted from scene unfolding.
With his last film, Muniz wrapped the film around one central character (again beautifully played by Benson) and the layers of story flowed around here. Here, Muniz tries to tackle three different storylines that weave together with varying degrees of success. Additionally, because On Parade
is a recently completed project there are still a few tweaks to be achieved in terms of continuity and editing.
One of the true joys of reviewing films on the indie film circuit is the ability to discover and follow truly committed indie directors like Edgar Muniz, whose distinct voice and visual style unquestionably deserves a wider audience. With intelligence and respect for his characters and his audience, Muniz has crafted a film that true fans of indie cinema will want to catch either on its festival or DVD run.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic