‘Remember Me’: Cinequest Review

Courtesy of Sparklight Films
Smart and snappy.

In Steve Goldbloom’s feature debut, Rita Moreno plays a grandmother on an unexpected road trip.

Two responsibility-averse thirtysomethings are forced into the driver’s seat in Remember Me, a road-trip comedy that moves with energy, detours included. If there’s nothing earth-shattering about the intergenerational story, writer-director Steve Goldbloom does make some sharp observations about modern mores, finding a pleasing balance between sincerity and irreverence.

Onscreen, he clicks with his co-stars, newcomer Joel Kelley Dauten and showbiz vet Rita Moreno, who shines in a central role. The ever-busy octogenarian’s involvement could entice distributor interest after the film premieres at San Jose’s Cinequest.

The California romp kicks off when Pappy (Ray Reinhardt) kicks the bucket, nearly midsentence. His grandsons, bickering cousins Vincent and Barry, fly into a wry two-stooges routine in an attempt to deal with the situation by not quite dealing with it. But as they rise to the occasion, and as their newly widowed, overmedicated nanna, Gloria (Moreno), comes out of her prescription fog, new bonds emerge that transcend family obligation. And the performances transcend stereotypes, with Moreno avoiding the cute-and-feisty profile that plagues comedies about the older crowd.

Goldbloom’s Vincent is a public-radio “journalist” who announces war-news headlines. He weakly invokes an upcoming family reunion to beg off a Beirut assignment, and then uses work to try to get out of family entanglements. Barry (Dauten), a stand-up comic, aspiring actor and Uber driver, strikes a purist retro pose to Vincent’s smartphone-tethered career guy, and in their separate ways they’re both full of hot air.

Gloria’s profanity-laced straight talk, not to mention her facility for flamenco (this is Moreno, after all), snaps her emotionally stunted grandsons into adulthood, or something close to it. Grieving and reclaiming her life at the same time, she gets her glam on for Barry’s headlining gig during a stop in Merced (a set of angsty observational humor, cut into a condensed and choppy couple of minutes).

The on-the-road high jinks and clashes peel away the assumed logic behind the trip, a family plan to shuffle Gloria off to an assisted living facility. At its heart, the film is an argument against the sidelining of the elderly, and it makes its point without lapsing into schmaltz. That’s thanks to the brisk writing, the trio’s fine comic timing and effective sight gags that include a farcical but emotionally charged carousel ride.

Not every stab at humor hits the mark, but the chemistry never fails. Serving the performances without calling attention to itself, Goldbloom’s direction is straightforward, the production details basic. He deftly roots the story in the here and now while holding a deep affection for the past of Nanna and Pappy’s youth — as the soundtrack's well-chosen jazz and pop standards attest.

Production company: Sparklight Films
Cast: Steve Goldbloom, Joel Kelley Dauten, Rita Moreno, Ray Reinhardt, Zach Land-Miller, Corey Jackson
Director-screenwriter: Steve Goldbloom
Producers: Heather Haggarty, Nanou Matteson
Executive producers: Heather Haggarty, David Long, Nanou Matteson
Director of photography: Justin Chin
Production designer: Jules Kobelin
Costume designer: Irina Shamsotinov
Editor: Zach Land-Miller
Composer: Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum

Not rated, 83 minutes