The Young Unknowns
review by Elias Savada, 11 April 2003

Director Catherine Jelski's debut feature, "discovered" at the twenty-fifth Toronto Film Festival back in 2000, is getting a belated release this month through Indican Pictures. Don't blame the delay on 9-11, the War in Iraq, or all those celebrity couple break-ups; it's going to be a hard sell no matter when you get this film into the marketplace. This actors' tour-de-force over content is a raw study of the young and the disillusioned among L.A.'s rich upper crust. Early Neil LaBute it ain't.

The minimalist day-in-the-life story allows you an eighty-seven-minute visit with the snobbish Charlie Foxx, played with brutish vulgarity by Devon Gummersall (My So-Called Life). He spends his days in the family's posh California home, soaking up the chlorine in the pool, sipping bottomless margaritas, chain-smoking, maxing out his credit cards, and otherwise carousing with other like-minded, insecure brats. His parental units are absent: father Sebestyen is a famous commercials director somewhere on the road between La-La-Land and London, while mom's been out of the family picture since Charlie was twelve. There's a decade of familial angst that has undoubtedly hoisted much of the anger on rich, pretty Charlie. Although mom sends back occasional photos from Vermont or wherever, twenty-three-year-old sonny boy begrudgingly leaves her mail unopened. Simon Templeman literally phones in his part as the distant dad.

Charlie's part-time, sleep-in exotic girlfriend Paloma (Arly Jover) -- by day a Hollywood production coordinator, by night (and day) wondering what the heck she's doing with this rotten schmoe -- deserves a better man and a car that works. I continually asked myself, "Will audiences pay to see such an immature and off-base creature, with oodles of money, constantly put down the entire human race, save himself and best bud Joe (Eion Bailey), a even more freakish, violent imitation of himself?" (No.) Both "men" (each actually belongs to a much lower species) have a nasty knack for the steady dirty dig, particularly Joe -- no doubt the reason he can't maintain a relationship -- and even puts it to Paloma, asking Charlie to "control his woman."

Jelski plays up the characters at the expense of nearly any story development (she also wrote the script, inspired by the stage play Magic Afternoon by Wolfgang Bauer), focusing on the two male peas in their pod. Charlie rants about the incompetents around him. A cameraman shooting some out-of-focus footage. His mother. And "stupid" Paloma herself. A third of the way in she's had enough and splits, allowing for the leggy entrance of light-haired model Cassandra (Leslie Bibb), a coke whore who is Joe's squeeze for the day.

"I'm a friend of Joe's," she introduces herself to Charlie and Paloma. It seems Jelski has written the Spaniard back into the script, when any sensible gal (fictional or not) wouldn't have given either of these cads another drop of spit. Anyway, Charlie, obviously awe-struck by the new blonde in the house responds, half-jokingly and even semi-lustfully, "Sure you are."

Within minutes, this turgid microcosm seemingly unravels as Joe breaks Cassandra's nose, which gives the passionless Charlie goosebumps for the "love" he sees between the couple. But Charlie's all talk and no action, as Paloma calls his bluff. "I'm so sick of this," she mourns. We're all sick of it, Paloma. Her idea of escape is through the front door; Charlie sees it in the shower, with a blade cutting their wrists. Anyone having stumbled through the film this far is heading for the red exit sign.

Where's the next monkey wrench? Well it arrives soon enough with a phone call from dad: mom's dead. Fetal despair, more drugs and even more alcohol follow.

You're not going to feel enlightened by The Young Unknowns and, frankly, you'll probably benefit by keeping them unknown from your film-going pocketbook. There's a spiral-down atmosphere permeating the film and its assorted crankheads and control freaks, overwhelming its ounce of remorse ("I known I'm an asshole. Forgive me."). The Young Unknowns is so very R-rated soap opera, with a nod toward Clockwork Orange. It's one big, ugly party monster. Speaking for the rest of us wallflowers, I'd sit this one out.

Written and
Directed by:

Catherine Jelski

Starring:
Devon Gummersall
Arly Jover
Leslie Bibb
Eion Bailey
Dale Godboldo
Simon Templeman

Rated:
NR - Not Rated.
This film has not
been rated.

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