Largely based on actual events in the life of its director Tao Ruspoli, shot documentary style, and often incorporating non-actors, Fix stretches the line between fiction and reality, and does so with humor and subtlety. It is a film with a lot of energy and style.
Taking place over the course of one long day, the story follows Milo (director Tao Ruspoli) and his romantic partner Bella (played by Ruspoli's real life wife Olivia Wilde) as they pick up Milo's brother Leo (Shawn Andrews) from jail in order to transport him across town to a court ordered rehab. The only problem, or rather the beginning of the problems, is that Leo needs five thousand dollars in cash by the end of the day in order to pay for the rehab, or he won't get in and will end up doing hard time in prison instead.
Another complication is that Leo is irresponsible and half crazy, even though at the same time irrepressibly good natured and charming. Bella, the only one of the three with a driver's license, is reluctant to spend the time carting Leo around, particularly as she had planned on taking the day to work on her own documentary film with Milo. She slowly grows to like Leo, and to become committed to the cause of keeping him out of prison. They spend the day driving around Los Angeles, visiting Leo's numerous friends trying to raise the money necessary to pay for the rehab.
Leo's friends include such diverse people as an injured vet, a biker gang, an unemployed actor, a chop shop owner and the wife of an Israeli arms dealer. By hook and by crook, they begin to raise the money, by selling a stolen car, a German police dog, and perhaps even some medical grade marijuana. By far, the most help is given by Leo's sometime girlfriend Carmen (Megalyn Echikunwoke), who hooks the group up with a marijuana grower and takes them around to various prospective buyers.
Fix is not entirely without flaws. While most of the cast, including the various non-actors among them, give outstanding and realistic performances, there are a few false notes. In particular, the Ukrainian marijuana grower is a bit melodramatic. Other than that, the performances are naturalistic and comfortable. This is helped considerably by the documentary style of the film. Everything we see is from the point of view of Milo's camera. He films everything, and is himself rarely seen. While many movies of this kind struggle with explaining why someone would continue to film (think Cloverfield or Quarantine), here it comes off quite well, with Leo's addiction to drugs being contrasted to Milo's addiction to filming. The conceit that Milo is carrying his camera everywhere with him allows all of the characters to react to the camera and perform with the knowledge that they are being recorded. Shawn Andrews as Leo gives a frenetic and inspired performance as the addicted brother. His personality is so strong that the viewer, despite a strong dislike at his first appearance, gradually is drawn in and grows to like him, mirroring Bella's journey from annoyance and disdain to real empathy.
The knowledge, gained from watching the significant extra material on the disc, that much of the story is based on Tao Ruspoli's actual ordeal of taking his brother Meo to rehab and having to raise the cash to pay for it, only adds to the experience on further viewings. The classic Impala that is featured in the film is Meo's actual car. The film begins in the parking lot of the jail where Ruspoli picked up his brother. Even some of the dialogue exchanges in the film are lifted from conversations between the two real life brothers. This firm connection to reality grounds the film, adding a dose of weight and solidity to the often bizarre events. Fix reflects the life that many people live, even if it is strange and exciting in a way that most of us don't experience every day. It is tightly directed, strongly written, and true to life. Highly recommended.
The image is in 1.78:1 widescreen, and looks good, with some caveats. The film is shot documentary style, though it is creatively edited. Because of this, there are lots of lens flares, colors washing out, graininess, and other artifacts (even some dog spittle on the lens at one point) that in other circumstances would be considered flaws or problems. Here, however, they play to the conceit of the film and add to the feeling of realism.
The sound is available as either Dolby digital 2 channel or 5.1 channel. Considering the low budget and numerous constraints the filmmakers operated under, the quality is quite high. Dialogue is always audible. English subtitles are provided, but no alternate language tracks.
There are a number of extras included with the disc. They are described individually below:
Previews are included for the films Wake and Yesterday Was a Lie.
Interview with Tao Ruspoli and Shawn Andrews
At just over ten minutes, this is an interview with lead actor Shawn Andrews and director / co-writer Tao Ruspoli. It's quite interesting. The two talk about the production and promotion of the film, both done on a very intimate and personal scale, and some of the themes explored.
The Making of Fix
This is broken up into three very short pieces on the making of the film, focusing on the Concept, Team and Process. All told, this represents just under ten minutes of material. There are interviews with co-writer Jeremy Fels, director of photography Christopher Gallo and editor Paul Forte, as well as with the cast. Very interesting.
This is the first of the two commentaries included on the disc, featuring Tao Ruspoli, Olivia Wilde and Shawn Andrews. They discuss many of the challenges of production, including the fact that Wilde was cast in House just prior to filming, requiring a total rearrangement of the shooting schedule. They talk a lot about how Tao's brother Meo inspired Shawn's performance, and reflect on the themes of the film. Ruspoli wanted a film that was not judgmental of its subjects, but didn't glamorize drug use either.
The second commentary, featuring Tao Ruspoli, Paul Forte the editor, Christopher Gallo the DP, and Black Moses, who played Black Aries in the film. Like the previous commentary, all of the participants are engaging and have many stories to tell. They discuss a lot of the technical hurdles that had to be overcome during production. Forte was even robbed of a laptop at gunpoint while filming in Watts, though they go to great lengths to explain that nearly everyone there was open and friendly.
Fix is a daring and experimental film, pushing the boundaries of the pseudo-documentary genre. It succeeds at nearly every level, with easy and natural performances, confident direction and lots of style. The strong current of absurdity and humor doesn't detract from the stark realities portrayed or from the human drama. This is a very good film, and hopefully Ruspoli and company will continue producing this kind of quirky, compelling film.