While I can enjoy the latest blockbuster movie as much as anyone, I also have a soft spot for independent movies. Theses movies are shot on much lower budgets. As such, they tend to be more character driven.
Phoenix, Oregon is a fantastic independent film written and directed by Gary Lundgren. This 2019 film focuses on a chef and a bartender who decide to pursue their dream of owning their own restaurant.
James Le Gros stars as Bobby, a man low on ambition stuck slinging drinks in the small town of Phoenix, OR. Jesse Borrego, one of my favorite actors, plays Carlos – the chef at the restaurant Bobby works at. Unlike Bobby, Carlos has his eyes on the future.
Carlos has ambitions of being his own boss and running his own restaurant/bowling alley built around his secret pizza recipe. After some coaxing, Carlos gets Bobby to come on board as an investor. Together they meet with a venture capitalist who loves their idea and agrees to put in some major money.
Lisa Edelstein plays Tanya, a confident and independent woman who connects Carlos and Bobby with venture capitalist Mario (Reynaldo Gallegos). Edelstein is absolutely terrific. Her sexual confidence and refusal to be shamed for it is inspiring. Gallegos delivers a very believable portrayal of a man with money to spare.
Borrego’s natural charisma shines through in this film. You can’t help but to root for Carlos and his dreams. Le Gros is equally effective as a man with little confidence in himself, but willing to believe in his friend.
Diedrich Bader makes a nice appearance as Kyle, the manager of the restaurant Bobby and Carlos leave to start their own eatery.
From top to bottom, the acting is really strong in this picture. That isn’t always the case with indie films, so it’s important to mention.
The story is simple and the ideal vehicle for Lundgren’s characters to come alive in the hands of a group of very talented actors. The characters are what make the film work. They are endearing and real; flawed and complex.
The film centers on the midlife crisis of Bobby and Carlos – seeking a last-ditch way to add meaning to their lives. Through this film, actors Borrego, Le Gros, and Edelstein show us how to age gracefully.
It is a nicely paced, heartfelt film with a 1 hour and 48 minute run time. Although its listed as a comedy, I am more inclined to label is a quiet drama, or at least a dramady. It’s kind of like comfort food, you’ll enjoy it and feel happy and content when you are done.
Peace. Love. Trust.
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