'Straight Outta Tompkins': Film Review
A private-school kid turns to drug dealing in a neighborhood whose streets are no longer very mean.
Several years ago, well-born New York kids found fame mimicking the angular rock music of the 1970s CBGB era. These days, attention has turned to the movies made just blocks away during the same period. The latest debut, made in the shadow of Martin Scorsese, is Straight Outta Tompkins, whose writer-director-star Zephyr Benson wears shaggy black curls and a pout befitting an audition for The Strokes. Son of actor Robby Benson (the Ice Castles lead who went on to voice Beast in Disney's Beauty and the Beast) and singer Karla DeVito, Benson reportedly paid for most of his film with "leftover tuition money." The not-terribly-convincing picture may have trouble earning back even that modest budget.
Benson plays Gene Silverstein, a private-school student whose businessman dad has left him to fend for himself while starting over with a new family in Asia. (Hokey inserts envision a perfect family breaking up after Gene's mother's death.) Finally forced to leave his family's comfy apartment due to unpaid rent (an unbilled Whoopi Goldberg cameos as his landlady), Gene winds up crashing with Cruz (Aaron Costa Ganis), who has been selling him small amounts of pot but soon expects the boy to hawk harder drugs to his well-off classmates.
The scene at Cruz's place is more Douchefellas than Goodfellas, but that doesn't keep Gene from narrating the tale in a straining-for-street-cred voiceover that isn't nearly as clever as it thinks. We watch as the teen slides from a low-stakes life of sassing his teachers and slinging pot cupcakes to shooting heroin and scratching his nose with a pistol. It's a bad trip we've been on many times before, and Benson stops at all the usual sights, pointing them out (telling us what a "burner" phone is, translating drug lingo) as if he were the only one with a Netflix queue of modern gangster cinema.
Production company: Lyric Films
Cast: Zephyr Benson, Aaron Costa Ganis, Jon McCormick, Mike Steinmetz, Adonis Rodriguez, Christina Saragaglia
Director-Screenwriter: Zephyr Benson
Producers: Zephyr Benson, Greg T. Gordon
Executive producers: Robby Benson, David Rudd
Director of photography: Brandon Roots
Production designer: Emma Mead
Editors: Erica Mireles Folsey, Ryan Folsey
Music: Robby Benson
Casting director: Asher Novek
No rating, 92 minutes