review by KJ
Doughton, 20 June 2003
Seattle International Film Festival
emotional poem to young urbanites looking for love, Cole Drumb’s
ambitious Dominoes is a
reflection of Seattle’s melancholy nightlife that bounces its
college-age characters through the scary, abrasive politics of
dating. Drumb’s effort boasts a Robert Altman-sized canvas of
actors and was shot on digital video. Full of profane, tenacious
exchanges of dialogue and sexual encounters, this concoction is
funny-sweet in a Diner
kinda way, with the bitter aftertaste of more scalding melodramas
like Your Friends and
begins as Evan (played by John Cusack lookalike Andrew McMasters)
phones longtime girlfriend Ginger (Shannon Hillary). Stranded at
roadside with a smoke-spewing engine, he sheepishly cancels their
scheduled date. It’s an honest situation, but Ginger’s been
burned before, and she smells a rat. Is Evan screwing around, while
she plays the fool?
we meet Deidre (Susan Young), a trusting eager beaver whose quest
for acceptance lands her in the beds of an older lesbian (Laura
Malone), a pretentious self-help guru (Lowell Deo), and a selfish,
suspicious woman-hater (Kevin Wilson). Nurturing the film’s
central coupling, Frank (Joe Giannunzio) and Ava (Taryn Darr) watch
such peers weather these conflicts as their own romance comes into
a wind-whipped house of cards, the many relationships in Dominoes topple under the anxieties of fear and misinformation.
Wilson’s Lance, for instance, is a conniving misogynist who fuels
Frank’s suspicions that Ava is being unfaithful with bitter
nuggets of wisdom like, "Women crave compliments like men crave
sex," over cigarettes and beer. Even so, we suspect that his
cynicism is borne of past hurt and betrayal, making Lance an oddly
sympathetic character. Ditto for Ginger, who loves Evan even as she
repeatedly gives him the cold shoulder.
fast-moving pinballs ricocheting off bells and bumpers, these
friends, lovers, and other walking wounded take a psychological
beating before emerging as sadder, wiser, and stronger human beings.
digital production is handsomely shot, almost passing for a 35mm
film. The attractive visual garden of Seattle sights – including
ski planes landing in Lake Washington and that famous, Space
Needle-stamped skyline – give Dominoes
and unmistakably Northwest feel. Meanwhile, the movie’s
fresh-faced actors are all top-notch, especially Taryn Darr as Ava,
who puts her neck on the line to save a relationship that’s been
threatened by reckless gossip. Gifting this sincere, honest
character with intelligent strength, you get the impression that Ava
is the one destined to emerge from these pre-marriage growing pains
unscathed and happy.
has created one of the better romantic comedies produced in The City
That Bill Gates Built (on a budget that probably covered catering
costs for Sleepless in Seattle).
Dominoes could have easily
veered into schmaltzy Joel Schumaker territory, but it resists sappy
resolutions, emerging as a tougher hybrid of chick flick that even
men can appreciate. St.
Elmo’s Fire, it ain’t.
Seattle International Film Festival: