Oconomowoc: Film Review

Low-rent Wes Anderson, without the style or heart.

Andy Gillies’ DIY-feeling first feature, about a trio of Wisconsin slackers comes across as "Bottle Rocket"-lite.

The absurdist comedy Oconomowoc is not only named after a place but dedicated to it — “a city we love very much,” the end credits declare of the titular Wisconsin town — so it’s doubly disappointing that there’s not more there there. 

Andy Gillies’ first feature is all DIY sensibility without a center, constructed of blackout scenes that accrue but don’t add up. Based on a series of shorts by the director, Oconomowoc might have had more punch as a 30- or 40-minute film. Built more for small-screen consumption, and not necessarily in one sitting, it might find a warmer welcome among younger audiences on post-theatrical platforms. 

With its lost man-child trio, the movie suggests a Bottle Rocket Lite, and it’s no surprise that Gillies cites Wes Anderson’s debut as his favorite film. There are no heists in Gillies’ feature, but a gun does figure in one of the stupider scenes. The stupidity is intentional, but though the deadpan humor does occasionally click, annoyance is the chief effect. 

Brendan Marshall-Rashid lends a glimmer of goofy soulfulness to the role of Lonnie Washington, who returns to his mother’s home, having recently “declined the opportunity” of a job. Without a plan, he finds himself hanging out with his old friend Travis (Gillies), an entrepreneurial slacker with an extremely unwarranted superiority complex, a questionable T-shirt venture and a vendetta against the middle-schooler (Kruz Karstedt) who’s successfully working the same retail arena. 

Lonnie has a new stepfather, Todd (Andrew Rozanski), who at 30 is a year older than him and insists on calling him “son.” Todd also spends most of the film wearing an untied polka-dot bathrobe and briefs, and is given to feeding lawn-figure deer. 

With the exception of Lonnie’s mother (Deborah Clifton), who’s seemingly surgically attached to a martini glass, the women the guys encounter tend to cut straight through their stupidity. Chief among them is Mallory (Cindy Pinzon), the pharmacy employee who Lonnie falls her. Their semi-confrontational patter is as self-conscious as everything in the film but has a certain spark. 

Marshall-Rashid, Gillies and Joe Haas, who also serves as DP and editor, contribute a music score of improvised numbers that lean toward acoustic thrash and suit the overall rough mix of low-energy escapades and angst. But a film about pointlessness doesn’t itself have to be pointless; reaching for something original, Oconomowoc falls short. 

Production companies: Joe Hass Media in association with What Prods.
Brendan Marshall-Rashid, Cindy Pinzon, Andrew Rozanski, Andy Gillies, Deborah Clifton, Kruz Karstedt
Andy Gillies
Andy Gillies, Joe Haas
Director of photography:
Joe Haas
Joe Haas, Brendan Marshall-Rashid, Andy Gillies
Joe Haas
No MPAA rating
Running time: 79 min.