Reviewed by Matt Ritchey
Los Angeles Overnight is a pseudo-noir film about a young actress and what she’s willing to do to succeed, the title clearly a reference to the myth of “overnight success.” It follows in the footsteps of classic L.A. noirs, and does a great job of using the city – filmed with truly impressive cinematography by Stefan Colson – as a kind of uber-character, menacing and unfair to all the people within it. This is where we meet Priscilla, a waitress and struggling actress. She overhears some regulars at her diner using what she believes is “code” and with the help of a handsome mechanic, soon discovers stolen money and, of course, they split it. This quickly escalates, as that money had been stolen from a dangerous gangster. So begins Priscilla’s rise in Hollywood using the cash to help her career, while she and her boyfriend mechanic are hunted by murdering mob types. A classic noir set up.
In addition to great cinematography, there are some nice performances, some from more recognizable faces such as Peter Bogdonavich as a hypnotherapist, but also a few scene-stealing moments from Lib Campbell as a perky and lonely fellow actress, and some good work by leads Arielle Brachfeld and Azim Rizk. The music, too, was effective.
Los Angeles Overnight has some pretty inconsistent tonal changes, the first half directed as a kind of comedy and the second half as a serious thriller. All of the beats are there, but the needs and stakes of the characters don’t feel high enough, which makes the seriousness in the latter half of the film sink under unsupported weight. It seems that Priscilla is a wilting flower whose arc is to become a hardcore “take-no-prisoners” woman, but the deciding moment and reasoning for some of her actions are lost in favor of a B Story involving a mini-revenge killing spree by one of the low-level thugs.
The script takes some major leaps of faith that we know these stock characters, in the same way that Rian Johnson’s Brick did. But Brick, while also not fully successful, did a solid job of giving all of the characters connected emotional through-lines and a believability. In Los Angeles Overnight, it feels as if we’re meant to be menaced by the bad guy’s archetypes rather than seeing meaningful motives.
Ultimately, all the pieces are there, but they don’t add up to what they strive to be. This is a shame, as with a number of tweaks, this could be a good thriller.
But it’s a successful first feature for director Michael Chrisoulakis, with wonderful cinematography, some good performances, and a definite love for the genre.
Now Playing through March 15, 2018 at Arena Cinelounge Sunset 6464 Sunset Blvd., Lobby Level, Hollywood, CA 90028
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