Friendship pitted against honesty in low-budget film
“Will you read my screenplay?”
This question, sometimes edited slightly to involve reading a novel or viewing a piece of art, haunts friends of those in the creative industry. It is the ultimate test and requires an important decision: honesty or friendship?
The new film The Blue Tooth Virgin — winner of the 2008 New American Cinema Special Jury Prize — focuses on the fine line between telling the truth and maintaining a relationship with another individual. Purchased by Regent Films immediately after its premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival, this independent comedy-drama delves into the complicated nature of Hollywood friendships.
After reading a screenplay given to him by an old friend, David (Bryce Johnson) realizes the text is absolutely horrible. He must now choose whether to tell Sam (Austin Peck) the truth or let him be publicly humiliated. The movie continues like a play, taking a nod from Éric Rohmer, with eight dialogues beautifully shot with a Panasonic VariCam in various locations around Los Angeles. While the constant discussion can become a bit heavy and lengthy, the film is well written and offers many valuable lessons if you are motivated to listen.
The writer, producer and director of the film, Russell Brown, earned a bachelor’s degree in critical studies and a master’s in screenwriting from USC. Because of his background, he understands the politics of Hollywood. It is clear that The Blue Tooth Virgin caters to an audience that appreciates the drama that goes into making a film, though everyone can identify with the issues presented. References to “production hell” and jokes about the horrors of screenwriting may slip by any student who has not sat through Drew Casper’s introduction to cinema course, but if you have ever spoken to a film student, you will recognize Sam’s anger when David divulges that he thinks. the screenplay is less than perfect.
Through showing how difficult it is to write and revise a screenplay, the audience sees another side of Hollywood. Unlike many movies that depict glorified streets lined with palm trees and stars, The Blue Tooth Virgin portrays the gritty side of the city and the struggle to be successful.
Although the film focuses on friendship in the midst of constructive criticism, it also takes on the age-old quest of attempting to determine exactly who you want to be, regardless of other people’s beliefs and the need to be successful. While this concept could be difficult to tackle, Brown does it with ease by weaving comical and blunt conversations between strong characters. The two main characters, David and Sam, serve as idealists for both sides of the movie industry. One is focused on the need to produce art while the other believes purely in the art of entertainment. This discrepancy provides a realistic conflict that all artists face. Additionally, Karen Black, a veteran independent film actress, provides the most outrageous performance as a highly paid script consultant. Along with these intriguing characters, relevant quotations are interspersed throughout the film. They appear in between conversations and serve as a link between them. Though catered to those familiar with the difficulties of writing, these quotations are humorous and add another level to the movie.
Despite its clear connection to those already in the film industry or aspiring moviemakers, The Blue Tooth Virgin will elicit some sort of emotion from every audience member. Whether it is frustration with Sam, who is in fact rather frustrating, or knowing how difficult it is to tell your friend/boyfriend/brother that his screenplay does indeed suck, there is something in this film for everyone. Though at times it seems as if Brown is testing out shots he learned in the halls of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, The Blue Tooth Virgin’s cinematography is beautiful.
As the film demonstrated by its festival acclaim, The Blue Tooth Virgin is a strong independent production that, in its simple, straightforward fashion, sheds some light on just how to reply to that daunting question of whether to criticize or remain safely in the bounds of friendship.