Down and Out in Vegas: THINK OF ME Film Review

By at May 14, 2012 | 11:58 pm | Print

3.5 / 5 stars

It’s rare that a movie shot and set in Las Vegas doesn’t holler about it on screen. In most popular films, from the Oceans to The Hangover, the desert destination is a relied-upon cliche, a shimmering, Think of Me Movie Posteropulent, 24-hour party. That’s far from the case for director Bryan Wizemann’s single-mom drama, where the town best known for blotto bachelor parties and neon debauchery is barely recognizable. For his persistently depressing drama, Wizemann brings us to the bowels of Sin City, far from the glittery Strip, a distant cousin to a hundred American downtrodden towns.

How strong must the temptation be for a filmmaker to get his troubled main character over to the gambling tables to win a few thousand bucks? Clearly, that’s too easy. And you get the feeling from Think Of Me‘s dour tone that Wizemann would find the option completely offensive, sliding away from the sense of reality he works to establish, succeeding in varying degrees.

Lauren Ambrose is Angela, a struggling young mother living in a modest apartment with her grade-school kid Sunny (Audrey P. Scott), raising her on stale mac-and-cheese and bad TV. Angela squeezes pennies wherever she can, scrounging for sneakers at a dollar-store bargain bin, flashing a slot player’s card to get free breakfast at a local hotel. It’s easy to imagine Think of Me surfacing as a conventional character study, working for shocks and tears as Angela resorts to turning tricks or working hopeless hustles. But it never comes, and the film is better for it.

Director Bryan Wizemann on the set of Think Of Me

Instead, Angela works telemarketing during the day, attempts office cleaning at night, and will occasionally sleep with a guy she can ask for a c-note in the morning. Ambrose doesn’t quite immerse herself into the role; she can wring out Angela’s anger and desperation, but appears to be working too hard to add a natural subtlety that Wizemann’s (above, on the set) direction is asking for. She checks her glowing good looks at the door, and takes control of the scenes with young Scott, but there’s something a bit too much in her characterization.

Lauren Ambrose and Audrey Scott in Think of MeWith Angela on a seemingly endless cycle of poverty, she starts a friendship with co-worker Max (Dylan Baker, unintentionally dancing close to his role in Happiness), a laid-back guy who takes a shine to Angela and Sunny, but with reasons: His sweet sister (Penelope Ann Miller) wants to play savior to the young girl, and the offer to pluck her from Vegas may be too intense for Angela to pass up.

This development has both a positive and a negative effect on Think of Me: As a story catalyst, it presents a painful moral dilemma, but it’s too neat and contrived for its hardscrabble surroundings. As a plus, it illuminates the miserable upbringing suffered by a horrible number of American children, amplified by the possibility of escape.

About a dozen years ago, while in Las Vegas, I witnessed a large family eating at a pizza joint, the dad paying the bill with quarters and pennies, his clan making the most of the drink refills. Whether it was their only restaurant experience for the week or the month, it was a strangely sad sight. Think of Me lives in that world, right down to the hopeless locale.

Think of Me won the Narrative Feature Grand Jury Prize at the 2012 Independent Film Festival of Boston, and was the Opening Feature for New York City’s 2012 Rooftop Film series.

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