Even though it's her birthday, Amelia (Electra Avellan) is not having a good day. She kicked things off by having a fight with her boyfriend Aaron, who can't understand her existential angst at having passed a potential "sell-by" date in Hollywood. Her next-door neighbor will not stop playing his drums, day or night, despite her apartment's paper-thin walls, and her next-to-next-door roommate is a jerky porn actor desperately trying to get Amelia to star with him in his next movie. Her father can't even be bothered to pay attention to her on a serious level for the length of a Skype phone call. Plus, on top of everything else, her rent is due tomorrow and her only hope is a series of crummy auditions she's fairly confident she can't get.
Amelia's 25th is a rare (but not enviable) combination: excessively charming on the surface, but pretty much a mess on every other level. Director Martin Yernazian and co-screenwriters Mark Whittington and Nicholes Cole (who plays Aaron) never really focus on what the movie is about -- quarter-life crisis angst, the pressure of Hollywood, wacky hijinks with their supremely talented cast of guest stars and cameos, or even an out-of-left-field supernatural story lacking in depth or meaning.
The good news first: although it'd be easy to write off her roles in uncle Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror and Machete as nepotism (he returns the favor here in a brief appearance as Amelia's dad), Electra Avellan acquits herself nicely in her third film without her sister. Amelia may not be a particularly layered character, but it's the kind of role that requires a casual attitude that can be much tougher than bigger, showier parts. Despite ample opportunity to do otherwise, she constantly makes the decision to underplay rather than overplay, even in That Scene that's always in movies about actors where they "really" act because -- get this -- it turns out they're in the middle of an audition!
Whenever the focus shifts away from Amelia, however, that's where the film gets lost. Is there a reason this movie, already under 80 minutes, needs to spend 10 minutes with notoriously ruthless producer Don Javier as he goes to a sex shop to get a lump on his dick checked out, other than the fact that Don Javier is played by Danny Trejo, and one of the ladies inspecting the lump is Margaret Cho? Probably not. In and of itself, the scene has an agreeable (if aggressive) comic rhythm, and all of the people involved perform it well enough, but the time would be better spent developing Amelia and Aaron's relationship a little more at the beginning (the exact reasoning for their fight is a little murky, and the timeline in which Aaron returns home and leaves some crucial items in the apartment before leaving again is kind of vague).
Throughout, the filmmakers make choices that mostly go against the cliches of movies like this: Amelia finds evidence that Aaron might be cheating, but, although she's concerned about it, it doesn't turn into a big deal that artificially creates conflict out of poor communication. A scene with Amelia's agent is lame, full of agent cliches, but then the film gives us another agent who actually displays a little compassion. Unfortunately, the filmmakers have no idea how to tie these threads together, so they fall back on a lazy "narrator" character (played by Whittington) who has terrible voice-over about the nature of Hollywood. His character, named Peter, not only robs Amelia of the chance to figure things out for herself, but develops into a gonzo finish involving characters that are not particularly important while Amelia's story is resolved elsewhere. There are elements of insight here, but Amelia's 25th ends up throwing them out in favor of an ending that amounts to little more than, "I guess that's why they call it Los Angeles!"
Breaking Glass offers Amelia's 25th in underwhelming cover art that settles for pasting an artificial birthday party hat on Avellan and shrugging. The back cover also features an image that is technically a spoiler. The disc comes in a cheap Amaray case with no insert.
The Video and Audio
Both the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen video and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio on this disc are pretty inconsistent. This is clearly a feature with a shoestring budget, and it appears to have been shot whenever cast and crew were available, with whatever lighting, camera, and sound equipment the production could get ahold of in time. The opening credits look as if they were shot on one of those Canon DSLR cameras with shallow depth-of-field and and soft edges. Later scenes appear to be shot on more conventional digital cameras, with the blown-out-whites and faint aliasing that are hallmarks of that type of equipment. Sound is completely at the mercy of the environments: dialogue in apartments and other enclosed spaces echoes slightly, with white noise varying sometimes from shot to shot. Sometimes it sounds fine, sometimes it sounds less than fine. Re-recorded dialogue is apparent, and pop music that occasionally cues up has the full surround at its disposal. It's not exactly a good A/V presentation, but it's also inextricable from the production process, so it's more about the crew than the disc.
Only two minor extras are included: two deleted scenes, and a photo gallery. One of the deleted scenes features another cameo, but otherwise, they aren't anything special. Two trailers for Amelia's 25th are also included.
Amelia's 25th is not a bad movie, just an uneven and unfocused one, which ends up spending more time on side characters and unnecessary fantasy when Amelia's struggle is more than enough to carry the film. At the same time, parts of the film are pretty charming, so major fans of some of the cast might find it agreeable enough for a rental.
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