BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE SWEET LIFE

By • Apr 19th, 2006 •

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Distributed by Synapse Films – 86 mins. 16X9 formatting.

‘A romantic comedy for people who hate romantic comedies’

Early in January 2006 I was invited by FIR’s Editor Roy Frumkes to attend the National Board of Review Awards in NYC. I stayed in an excellent, and reasonably priced, hotel on the Upper West Side, 94th and Broadway to be precise, just two blocks from Central Park with a Subway station, liquor store and a diner conveniently situated within two minutes walk. Roy lives on West 83rd which again was within walking distance and we of course met up several times for lunch and walkabouts and such, and, knowing I was partial to the occasional barrel of Guinness, he also kindly found me a couple of Irish bars in the area. I had a great time. Being an Englishman in New York on his first trip, and given some gorgeous, and unnatural, weather (60 degrees and clear blue skies, unlike the two feet of snow they have at the time of writing), I did the necessary tourist things like cruising on the Staten Island Ferry, walking over the Brooklyn Bridge, training into Grand Central Station, scaling the Empire State Building, had many walks in Central Park, rode around Times Square in an open carriage at midnight (just before the Christmas lights were taken down), and visited the poignant and vast void that is Ground Zero. Of course the highlight of my stay was the gala NBR ceremony at the Tavern on the Green (which Roy will fill you all in on), sitting up front near the podium with members of the NBR’s Board of Directors (one of whom is Roy of course) and hobnobbing with the likes of George Clooney, Jane Fonda, Sigourney Weaver, Susan Sarandon, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, David Cronenberg, Martin Scorsese, Ang Lee, George Clooney, Howard Shore, and fellow Brit (no pun intended) Julian Fellows, to name but a few. I truly was an honoured guest. Not that I’m into celebs or namedropping of course… Did I mention George Clooney?

There is a point, I assure you, to this preamble. There was I, Associate Editor of Films In Review, hanging around the streets, bars and clubs of the Upper West Side, a world hitherto unknown to me, and one which I fully embraced and immediately felt at home in, and you can read into that what you will. Anyhow, before I left for home, Roy gave me a copy of THE SWEET LIFE, a movie he co-wrote and produced. When I got back to the ‘real’ world of my rural British existence, and while I was still in NYC mode, one of the first things I did of course was watch Roy’s movie.

The story concerns the Assistant Editor of Films In Review and takes place in the streets, bars and clubs of the Upper West Side… Whoah! Cue reality check #1 (The magazine is actually never named but the Films In Review posters on the wall of his office are a little clue). Reality check #2 came when at one point he catches up with his brother who has just finished having lunch with a business client who looks remarkably like a guy I’d recently been having lunch with in NYC and who is coincidentally called ‘Roy’. I finally decided I was cracking up when fellow FIR contributor Victoria Alexander turned up as one of our protagonist’s ‘dates from hell’. All this was being made worse by the fact that this guy was occupying a really neat office in NYC that I don’t have…

With this slightly disturbing aspect to the movie held firmly in check I watched in fascination to see if my doppelganger’s life was going to be more interesting than my own, which of course, being the movies, it was.

THE SWEET LIFE is the story of two ‘chalk and cheese’ brothers. Michael (Lorinz), the self-doubting and self- disparagingly droll magazine editor (“The last woman I dated told me she wasn’t ready for a physical relationship. And this was after we’d had sex.”), and Frankie (Mobley), his twice divorced, womanising, carousing and gambling cad of an older brother, who is currently dating Lila (Sicuranza), a tattooed, tough and sexy foul-mouthed, arm-wrestling bartender and the kind of woman Frankie feels the ‘too nice’ Michael could never handle. Michael agrees. “You’re right, I’d be afraid that if I entered her body, it might take hostage negotiations to get back out.” Introduced to Lila, who, like many women to his chagrin, just assumed he was gay, Michael is set up with Lila’s roommate Sherry (a terrific Jett) and after a date which involves a hair-raising trip across town on the back of Sherry’s Harley and almost being beaten to a pulp in a biker bar, he ends up handcuffed to the bedposts in Lila and Sherry’s apartment with the drunken Sherry unconscious on top of him.

He is eventually rescued by a tearful Lila who tells him that she and Frankie have split up. They spend the night walking and talking. The surprisingly sensitive Lila has a dream of becoming a massage therapist and Michael encourages her to go for it. The relationship develops and Michael pushes her to enrol in a massage therapy school. Soon the two are seeing each other on a more ‘serious’ level. When Frankie grows suspicious that Michael is sleeping with Lila, like a spoilt kid, he wants his ball back and the story slips into one about sibling rivalry and who actually has Lila’s best interests at heart.

It’s a bittersweet tale handled well and on the whole solidly performed with its dysfunctional characters well defined and believable. Some of the heart-to-hearts between Lila and Michael fall a little flat and lack spontaneity, but other scenes they share are truly touching, and others painfully funny. Some of the dialogue made me laugh out loud, and Joan Jett, in her intermittent scenes, is fabulous in her romantic comedy debut. The final scenes at the wedding (I won’t tell you whose) are literally a riot. The movie moves along at a brisk pace, hardly flagging, and takes full advantage of its authentic locations. Even with my limited knowledge of the city I could tell that Roy and Rocco know their locale and its inhabitants, and how to capture them.

Roy Frumkes’ first cameo appearance comes immediately after a scene where Michael is discussing Hitchcock movies, and of course will be cited by Roy from now on as being wholly intentional. Not one to miss out on a free lunch, he also appears as a wedding guest.

The Sweet Life won the Best Romantic Comedy Award at the New York Independent International Film and Video Festival, and was the Official Opening Night Selection at the Back East Picture Show.

Roy and Rocco Simonelli have a long association and you can read both their bios in the Credits section of this site.

For more background on The Sweet Life read Roy Frumkes’ September 2001 Editorial.

For those interested in the trials and tribulations of independent movie production check out Roy and Rocco’s book entitled “Shoot Me”, which discusses the making of The Sweet Life as well as lots of other indie-related films, and there’s also an interesting interview with Roy and Rocco about the pros and cons of working with digital video at Movie Maker Magazine.

Actor James Lorinz adjusts Producer Roy Frumkes' wardrobe for the climactic wedding sequence. Photo: Larry Merz


Special Features:
Feature Commentary by Rocco Simonelli & James Lorinz
Deleted Scenes with Commentary by Roy Frumkes
Trailer

Director: Rocco Simonelli
Screenplay: Rocco Simonelli & Roy Frumkes
DP: James Carman
Editor: Gary Cooper
Producer: Roy Frumkes

Cast:
James Lorinz
Barbara Sicuranza
Robert Mobley
Joan Jett

Music: Kenny Laguna
Title Song performed by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

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