A young boy's real dying wish
It's not going to be an easy wish to fulfill though, as Nikki is on a destructive spiral down in New York, and Dylan's cancer is taking its toll on his life in a blue-collar Philadelphia suburb. But as is the case in movies, their lives, through the machinations of good people and less-so, cross paths. If this sounds like a very simplistic story with an somewhat moralistic tone, it most certainly is. But it works thanks to some good writing, solid directing and quality acting.
The most impressive part of the movie is the way the more serious scenes co-exist with the comedy, without feeling like a compilation of scenes, and instead coming off as a cohesive movie. Dealing with Dylan's illness is a large part of the film, whether it's done in hospital rooms or through the nosebleeds that remind you how sick he is. This "heaviness" gives the film a chance to get philosophical, and gives the production a real meaningful feel.
At the same time, this is a movie about a smartass teen looking to hook up with a model, and there's a lot of fun stuff happening, especially with Dylan's two horny and goofy buddies tagging along. Then some mysticism creeps in, as Dylan meets a cast of unique characters who help him on his way, including a Brooklyn-style Hindu philosopher and a cabbie played by Wyclef Jean. Throw in some unexplained visions of his dead father (an uncredited Ethan Hawke), and the film feels like one of those quirky fables that will stick with you for a while.
Giving another strong performance, Angarano is the kind of young actor who is much better than his age and experience should allow, and this role is the perfect match for him. Playing his part with a blend of dark comedy and pure pathos, he's beyond likeable, but never cloying, which puts him head and shoulders over other actors his age. The casting of his partners in crime is just as good, as their squeaky voices and awkward posture resonate as real. The trio's performances help sell the story, by keeping it grounded when the plot gets either heavy or flighty.
Alex Steyermark's follow-up to his directorial debut, Prey for Rock & Roll, is a more complete film, and, removing him from his music background, allows him to show his strengths, which include conversations and real emotion. The style that dominated his previous movie is stripped down to honesty here, and his actors respond with very good performances, including Cynthia Nixon, as Dylan's Mom, and Mabry, as the object of his affections. It says a lot that Steyermark is able to prevent this story from taking the inevitable fall into melodrama or heartless shtick, and instead balances everything in a delicate combination.
Considering Steyermark's career as a sound and music editor, it's no surprise that this disc's aural presentation is terrific. The dialogue is clean and crisp, and the music mix keeps everything nicely separated and strong. Some nice atmospheric sound makes its way to the sides and rear, along with more of the soundtrack to spread the sound out a bit. Overall, it sounds very nice, delivering an appropriate track for this film.
More interesting is an episode of "Higher Definition," HDNet's film series with Robert Wilonsky, which focuses on the making of the movie (an HDNet production.) Obviously, it's a bit of corportate synergy, but it takes the place of your usual studio-produced fluff and is entertaining in doing so.
In the most extensive extra, Steyermark provides a feature-length audio commentary, sharing stories from the production and his thoughts on the actors and story. Though he slips into praise a bit too easily, his insight is good. Unfortunately, his energy level is just a bit higher than Steven Wright's, which makes the track drag slightly.
The disc wraps with four trailers, including this film's theatrical preview.
The Bottom Line