Nothing Special: Film Review

Nothing Special film still - H
Artificiality prevents this trite mother-daughter dramedy from hitting home.

Barbara Bain and Karen Black supply the bright spots in this mother-daughter dramedy from Angela Garcia Combs.

It may be tempting to suggest that Nothing Special lives up to its title, but the truth is this low-budget dramedy falls short of being merely conventional.

Flip-flopping between standard rom-com shtick and heavier dramatic interludes but remaining unconvincing in both modes, this portrait of a single young woman balancing her career with caring for her emotionally unbalanced mother never strikes the required empathetic tone.

More noteworthy is a supporting cast that includes old pros Barbara Bain and Karen Black, who each have their own unique way of making the stock characters their own.

Lead Louise (Julia Garcia Combs) is an ambitious insurance underwriter who is given to fantasizing about being interviewed by Oprah and getting it on with a cute but dim-witted actor-bartender (David Hardie), when not having to deal with those unpredictable outbursts from her wacko mom, May (Black, in full eccentric mode).

Meanwhile, Louise takes solace in the symbolic mother-daughter relationship she has with her brassy boss, Catherine (played with cool, understated efficiency by Bain), who's quite fond of the word, "kiddo."

Director-screenwriter Angela Garcia Combs has a habit of telling rather than showing when it comes to her characters, meaning that we know Louise is smart and great at her job because her boss keeps telling her so rather than seeing her in action, using her acumen to, say, find her way around closing a tricky deal.

As written and performed, there's a smugness to the central character that makes it difficult to root for her, despite her considerable mother issues.

But it's always nice to see Bain and Black in action, as well as hear the likes of Janis Ian, whose lovely, acoustic "We Endure" is played over the end credits.

Opened: Friday, Nov. 11 (House of Film)
Production companies: Yellow Wallpaper Prods.
Cast: Julia Garcia Combs, Karen Black, Barbara Bain
Director-screenwriter: Angela Garcia Combs
Executive producers: Angela Garcia Combs, Ben Combs, Mark Sheppard, Lynda Timbers, Daniel Combs
Producers: Sascha Schneider, Richard Wilson
Director of photography: Morgan Pierre Susser
Music: Laura Karpman
Editor: Jill D'Agnenica
No MPAA rating, 99 minutes