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One Too Many Mornings -- Film Review

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PARK CITY -- Billed as a "coming of age comedy," co-writer-director Michael Mohan's first feature strains throughout its run time to make the central character relatable, which is not an easy task with a loud-mouthed alcoholic as the protagonist. Slotted in the fest's new "Next" category for low-budget titles, "One Too Many Mornings" can bank on its Sundance pedigree to secure further festival bookings, with VOD offering the best opportunity for wider exposure, since DVD and theatrical potential look slim.

Shot in attractively contrasty black and white, this digital feature centers on Fischer (Stephen Hale), a purposeless 20-something who works as a caretaker at a church and coaches the congregation's kids soccer team in exchange for free rent. The unexpected appearance of his estranged high school friend Peter (Anthony Deptula) catches Fischer off guard, but since his buddy says he's struggling to overcome his girlfriend's infidelity, Fischer takes him in.

Despite his concern, Fischer's counseling skills are shockingly inadequate, consisting of forcing Peter to get drunk, pointlessly and repeatedly chant "she sucks" (about his girlfriend), help him to pick up a couple of older women at a bar, and drink too much again, all of which couldn't make Peter feel much worse. Things are going from ugly to outright hideous when Peter's girlfriend Rudy (Tina Kapousis) shows up with a disclosure that puts a completely different spin on his decision to flee.

Now it wouldn't be too far-fetched to wonder if a film about a guy named Fischer who lives in a church with a friend called Peter might have some Christian overtones, but the writers (Mohan co-scripted with actors Deptula and Hale) are so focused on elaborating Fischer's bad behavior that subtext falls by the wayside. Weak scripting creates situations that aren't especially comedic, leaving the cast without much to work with other than framing attempts to address Fischer's drinking problem and Peter's romantic dilemma.

Mohan does what he can with limited locations and production resources, but the film ends up so visually undifferentiated that the initially absorbing black and white imagery loses impact.

Whether the characters are any more emotionally mature following the slight 77-minute running time is debatable, but at least they're not forced to share their misery after parting ways. It's a tangible relief for the rest of us too.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival

Production: Monkey with a Camera Productions
Cast: Stephen Hale, Anthony Deptula, Tina Kapousis, Jonathan Shockley
Director: Michael Mohan
Screenwriters: Michael Mohan,
Producers: Anthony Deptula, Stephen Hale
Executive producer: Robert Young
Director of photography: Elisha Christian
Production designers: Cindy Chao, Michele Yu
Music: Capybara
No Rating, 77 minutes