STARRING Christina Shipp, Samantha Steinmetz and Jared Stern WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY Mark Lewis MPAA RATING NR RUNNING TIME 82 Mins. DISTRIBUTED BY Independent OFFICIAL WEBSITE
"Wild Girl Waltz" an Entertaining Indie from Mark Lewis
I'm always a touch surprised and very impressed when a filmmaker who has received a fairly modest review from me comes back with their next film. However, such is the case with Massachusetts based filmmaker Mark Lewis. I enjoyed Lewis's earlier effort, Baystate Blues, but there was no question the film was an ultra-indie effort and there were times that the film's production values hindered my enjoyment of the film.
Flash forward to Lewis's latest film Wild Girl Waltz, a film that has proven to be popular amongst the other film critics who pay significant attention to ultra-indies. In fact, the film even received year-end recognition from both Rogue Cinema and Sonic Cinema.
As most of you know, I've been a bit of a slouch these past few months as I've been working a full-time gig while also serving as an interim pastor. 60-70 hour weeks have been the rule, and my faithfulness in reviews has severely suffered. That really sucks, because it means I've been not paying enough attention to indie gems like this one.
Wild Girl Waltz is a film that entertained me from beginning to end, partly due to Lewis's exceptional casting for the film and also due to Lewis's growth as a filmmaker in knowing how to shoot the film without making its lower budget stand out. The film centers around Tara (Samantha Steinmetz) and Angie (Christina Shipp), two friends who end up taking some "goofy pills" to escape the boredom of their smalltown life. Brian (Jared Stern) is stuck babysitting the duo, and trust me it gets fun, until they come down from their high.
While the story itself sounds rather basic, Lewis has quite a bit of fun with it and he's assembled a cast with a tremendous amount of chemistry. Their shenanigans will include a visit to a local bar, exacting a bit of revenge for a stunt pulled on Angie in the film's opening and just the inevitable hoots and hollers that are about to happen when three friends are stuck together in rather unusual circumstances.
To Lewis's record, he doesn't stretch himself too thin here and try to accomplish too much with Wild Girl Waltz. He essentially takes a slice of life and turns it into an 82-minute film that is fun, spirited, often quite funny and genuinely good-hearted. I enjoyed the laughs in this film, but I also found myself really enjoying the characters. Samantha Steinmetz does a fantastic job as Tara, whose sassy confidence and abundant heart will no doubt endear her to you. Christina Shipp also does a really nice job as Angie, while it can't be overstated that her chemistry with Steinmetz makes the two believable as friends. Finally, Jared Stern manages to hold his own despite being mostly saddled with the task of playing straight man for two very high young women.
While there's still no question that this is an ultra-indie film, several of the things that bugged me about Baystate Blues are much less bothersome here. Lewis seems to have better control of his camera, and it just feels like everyone is so on the same page artistically that there's a genuine cohesion that really makes the film work. For more information on the film, visit the Wild Girl Waltz website linked to in the credits on the left.