(2006) dir. Richard Wong
Colma, for those of you that don’t have a Bay Area history, is a small town just south of the city that among its purely suburban strip malls and malls, is also the planting ground for the Bay Area’s dead. It’s the town where “the dead outnumber the living” and is rife with cemeteries. I used to find its suburbanity comforting and it’s still where San Franciscan’s do their Target shopping.
The fact that anyone would make a coming of age film based in Colma would have been interesting enough, but to add the humorous audacity of making it a musical just adds to the chutzpah. It’s a low-budget affair (surprise, surprise), and it strikes me, that the quality of the filming, acting, recording, etc. is something unique to the means of production that you wouldn’t have seen many years back. It’s a kind of film, in a sense, with its qualities in mind, that just wasn’t exactly possible without cheaper, better quality technologies.
The narrative is about three friends and their post-high school malaise that sets in within weeks of graduation. The three primary actors are all good. They all sing well enough. The songs are pretty good at the beginning, a sort of pop punky pop, more like Kim Wilde than Green Day, I suppose, but then lag a bit as they branch into other musical genres. The barroom drinking song fails to ring true for example.
But there is an earnestness that is appealing, though also a weakness. The drama is less potent than the humor. The campy self-awareness of the absurdity of musicals gives the film its early tone, and while that is maintained throughout to an extent, the emotional drama just sort of ekes by on its sincerity rather than its quality.
Still, I know a couple of people who would enjoy this. It’s kinda cute.