‘Like Sunday, Like Rain’: Napa Valley Review

Courtesy of Napa Valley Film Festival
Boy genius meets girl on the rebound

Frank Whaley’s fourth feature co-stars Leighton Meester and Debra Messing, along with Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong

A playful tone and passable performances can’t overcome an unremarkable premise and predictable plotting in writer-director Frank Whaley’s indie dramedy. Monterey Media’s recent pickup could help boost the film’s performance on theatrical release next March, although better returns can probably be expected from home entertainment formats.

After mid-20s New Yorker Eleanor (Leighton Meester) loses it over her slacker musician boyfriend Dennis’ (Billie Joe Armstrong) repeated infidelity, she throws his guitar out their apartment window; he retaliates by calling her out at her barista job, and she promptly gets fired. Unable to continue paying rent and fed up with Dennis, she moves out, planning to relocate to her mom's and stepdad’s place in Upstate New York. She puts her plan on hold after a casual referral to a nanny agency unexpectedly lands her a position looking after 12-year-old musical prodigy Reggie (Julian Shatkin).

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Neglected by his absent stepdad and practically ignored by his wealthy, self-centered mother, Barbara (Debra Messing), Reggie gets most of his caregiving from a live-in housekeeper. Her imminent vacation, however, forces Barbara to hire Eleanor temporarily, as well as provide her with room and board in exchange for getting Reggie to and back from his fancy New York prep school and keeping him occupied when he’s not doing homework, practicing cello or composing for his string quartet. Once his mom leaves town to meet her husband overseas, Reggie bails on her plan for him to attend sleepaway camp for the summer and Eleanor doesn’t insist, setting them up for six weeks of unstructured time hanging out in Manhattan.

Whaley’s film struggles somewhat with a rather forced tone of whimsicality, but shows an initial glimmer of promise that might have continued to build interest with further exploration of Eleanor’s abundantly dysfunctional relationships with her ex-boyfriend and estranged family. Instead, Whaley shunts her into an almost conflict-free friendship with a kid whose mental and artistic abilities may be exceptional, but whose emotional range remains fairly limited.

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And it’s not young Shatkin’s fault that his debut is so underwritten — even with abundant screen time, Reggie’s worldview barely shifts throughout the movie. Meester’s Eleanor would have benefited from more frequent and focused challenges as well, but she ends up mostly drifting through the film, which seems like a missed opportunity, considering Whaley’s extensive acting experience.

Messing’s appearance is too formulaic to sufficiently impress, but Armstrong’s turn as Eleanor’s musician ex-boyfriend is intriguing enough for his first feature, but lacks substantive impact. Tech credits are adequate, although composer Ed Harcourt’s orchestral score, intended to emphasize Reggie’s musical talent, grows wearying with too many intrusive passages.

 

Production companies: BB Film Productions, FJ Productions, Tagline Pictures

Cast: Leighton Meester, Billie Joe Armstrong, Debra Messing, Julian Shatkin

Director-writer: Frank Whaley       

Producers: Uri Singer, Fabio Golombek

Executive producer: Anthony Lucero           

Director of photography: Jimi Jones

Production designers: John El Manahi, Angela Cullen

Costume designer: Kama Royz

Editor: Miran Miosic 

Casting director: Allison Estrin

Music: Ed Harcourt

 

No rating, 104 minutes

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