I bet someone who's taken Ecstasy would tell me I just don't "get" co-writer/director Billy Samoa Saleebey's Rolling, which follows a group of twentysomethings in Los Angeles all addicted to the drug's special brand of high, and admittedly, I don't live in Los Angeles, I don't go to clubs, and I don't do- drugs (gee, aren't I boring?), so I know almost nothing about any of the three "scenes" presented in the movie. Even if I did, however, I doubt knowing the lifestyle would change the amount of cinematic masturbation drowning the film's first half. Saleebey switches between a vaguely magnolia-style group of intersecting characters and, even worse, fake "interviews" with the characters, which are inherently dislikable and performed by the cast with the worst kind of artificial realism.
The film mostly takes place over the course of a single night, set around a warehouse party, then continuing up into the Hollywood hills at a posh mansion. Our main characters, if there are any, are probably Rain (Sanoe Lake), reeling from a secret complication in her recently-ended relationship with Dustin (Garrett Brawith), a local drug dealer. Surrounding them are a group of recreational and hardcore Ecstasy users, all making their way to the warehouse for a little fun.
Cutting back and forth between the body of the movie and the interview segments may have seemed like an obvious fit, and in a purely structural sense, I suppose the movie does have a reasonably well-paced flow, but the difference between the way the characters describe the pleasure of being high and seeing the actual experience is slightly condescending. I suppose in and of itself, that might be fine, but these mostly aren't very charismatic or likable people, and who wants to watch a movie about terrible people that the film itself hates? The performers add tics and gaps to their cadence to try to make the clips seem more like real interviews, but all of their instincts generally come off as excessively unnatural, as if they've all researched drug users and have come up with techniques to embody the idea of these kinds of people instead of just playing it like a normal person. It's like watching a magic trick having figured out how it was done: the spectacle hiding the supposed sleight-of-hand seems painfully obvious.
As a director, Saleebey makes some other questionable choices, like intense color timing during some dramatic non-interview segments, which only adds more strain to the "documentary" concept. The interview bits themselves predictably make use of handheld cameras, doing the expected zoom-in and zoom-outs that "The Office" cinematographers make look easy. At about the 50-minute mark, however, the interviews decrease in frequency a little and the movie breathes a lot better as the characters head to the warehouse party. It's not enough to save the movie as a whole, but it makes the second half a lot easier to watch than the first half.
Again, most of the performances aren't that impressive, although three of them stood out for me. Angie Greenup plays Sarah Willis, a schoolteacher who seems ultimately more interested in hitting the town with her two roommates than actually doing E (although she does it anyway). At the warehouse, however, she ends up running into a student named Josh (Joshua Harper), who catches onto Ms. Willis' after-school activities pretty quickly. Josh is a bit of a dork. At one time, he played for the basketball team, but he dropped out after meeting Summer (Rachel Hardisty), who lured him away from sports and towards the party scene. At the time of the main plot, Summer's been avoiding Josh after Josh started moving too fast with their relationship, but she's forced to call on him when none of her regular hookups have any pills. These are the only three characters that seem to be completely independent of the movie's flimsy plot; they may participate but the story doesn't drive them like the other characters, who read like a list of cliches (the rich kid shirking his responsibilities, the wild-child, the non-user, the gay guy, the fat club loser). The three performances in question are also fairly natural, and I imagine these actors could do better on another film with a superior script.
After a somewhat-improved second act, the film arrives at a conclusion that I imagine anyone who's seen a drug movie in the past 15 years can probably predict (much like a cop taking a call on the eve of their retirement, one last high is never a wise idea). They always say drug movies are better high, because you'll be twice as attuned to the good and blank out any of the bad, but I doubt Rolling would be much improved by artificial means. It's neither the worst or best movie I've ever seen, and not being able to remember it later is an effect caused by the film itself, and nothing else.
The cover art on this single-disc keep case is alright, although it's blatantly Photoshopped, and the layout of the back cover feels slightly awkward. That said, the cover I received on my DVD seemed to have been printed on a home computer, and the disc was a DVD-R without the final disc artwork. No insert was included.
The Video and Audio
Boy, I'm glad this is a screener disc, because I'd hate to think release copies of Rolling look this bad. I've never seen more visible noise on a DVD than I did while watching this 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer, buzzing incessantly through every shot. 2.0 audio was also all I got on the screener.
Nothing. This disc contains no menu, no subtitles, no alternate audio: the movie plays automatically and when it's done, the disc just stops.
Skip it. Whether you're high or not, there are better movies to watch than this intermittently agreeable movie.
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