When the movie opens Earlene is sitting on a wall in Venice Beach swigging from a bottle secreted in a brown paper bag and she very dramatically utters to a total stranger ‘Experience is the name we give our mistakes. Which one are you?’ and I cannot help but cringe. It sadly will not be the last time I feel like that whilst watching this well-meaning micro-budget indie movie that is all heart but ends up being an undisciplined convoluted mish-mash of a film.
Earlene like every other character in this story has her ‘issues’ although in her case the reason for her mood swings are not clear until near the end. Her new androgynous Australian friend Bruno that she immediately latches on too at their first encounter is sexually confused, and so she adopts his well-being and happiness as her own crusade. Bruno has a dream of visiting Paris to see the Eiffel Tower which is obviously out of the question as neither of them have any money, so his new friend Earlene promises to take him on a road trip to see the next best thing i.e. a full size replica in Las Vegas.
En route and a chance meeting with Billy a good-looking cocky gay drifter takes them off course and they stumble upon a very small forgotten town in the middle of the Nevada desert. Its inhabited by an odd bunch of misfits straight out of Central Casting that include a Cher look-alike Sheriff, a tap dancing drag queen, and a couple of Scottish male strippers. They are all kindred spirit who have found this remote bolt-hole where they can escape the outside world that none of them remotely fit in.
This debut feature from British writer/director/producer Simon Savory bravely tackles issues of gender and sexual identity and friendship, and at times is close to succeeding. It’s valiant effort however is hampered by a heavy-handed script with a smattering of pompous sounding epithets which made the dialogue somewhat stilted. Ashleigh Simpson the lead actress could have taken her performance down a notch or too as she overplayed the part of Earlene to the point of being annoying.
On the other hand Savory’s choice to shoot this British production on location was very wise and really paid off with some excellent cinematography of the beautiful desert setting.
P.S. It’s tough being a filmmaker with such a minute budget and the biggest disadvantage of assuming all the major functions yourself as in this case is that you lack the benefit of another independent set of ears and eyes which may have spotted some of the issues which stopped it being the movie it was obviously meant to be.