What happens when a group of Arizona filmmakers gets together for a solid week of feature filmmaking? They head to Los Angeles for an intense, 11 day Red Bull™ fueled marathon of movie making. “TangerineLAnd” is the first feature from writer/director/producer Kellen Garner and features a fresh faced cast of indie newcomers. A very contemporary love story with lots of pop references, TangerineLAnd gently peels away zesty layers of blossoming love in small yet succulent portions. As seasons swiftly change, the vibrant fruit of affection withers and fades, and the taste for lifetime commitment becomes bitter.
A dreamy and colorful evening in Vegas introduces us to happy newlyweds Beth Harris (Brittany Brooks) and Sonny Barker (Kellen Garner). The couple met in college, where he’s a student aspiring to make it big on the pro surfing circuit, while she’s a law student aspiring to become, well, a lawyer. Fast forward six years as Beth, the now single, successful and darling dynamo attorney has just accepted the marriage proposal from her equally powerful law partner James (Christopher Sheffield). There’s just one problem; she is still legally married to Sonny, who is off the grid and hanging loose somewhere on the L.A. coast. Unable to reveal her past to her fiancé, Beth confides in her pal Haley (Dorée Seay) about her secret marriage and they concoct a story about the girls taking off for one final weekend fling. With divorce papers in hand, she flies to L.A. for a quick overnight, her mission: To find Sonny and get him to sign, so that she may continue her life as it apparently should, with no dark secrets looming over her impending marriage. She heads straight for the beach, and quickly finds Sonny in the middle of a bad breakup with his gold-digging eighteen year old girlfriend Amber (Stephanie Gail Williams) and a surfing career on permanent hold after blowing out his knee. Fate plays a very light hand in preventing Beth from accomplishing her mission, as the vacuum of time and crush of memories force them back together, neither of them offering much resistance.
TangerineLAnd is a very easygoing and uncomplicated film. Clever twists and surprising turns are not the order of the day at all. This film is more about waves gently ebbing towards the beach, and watching the tides go in and tides go out. The crashing waves that can thrust two lovers together and inspire dreams and ambition are suddenly no more, leaving only sand and rocks. Subtle flashbacks reveal the origins of their relationship and also plant the seeds of what will ultimately spell the doom of their somewhat impetuous union. The dialog is entertaining and insightful, with only a few scenes that felt like filler. Cinematography by masterful lensman and co-writer Christopher Sheffield is excellent and plentiful as he consistently pushes the prime lenses to the limit, converting the mundane into colorful, constantly stretching and compressing contrasts of shapes and textures. Serious props to writer/director/star Kellen Garner for pulling off such a Herculean feat, going from concept to completion in barely two years. Garner includes several subtle nods and tasteful tributes to many of his favorite films, appreciating the recognition of the audience with a new and relevant re-envisioning. It is obvious that the Arizona native has never surfed a day in his life, yet his performance and delivery as the freewheeling, loose living surfer dude is more than convincing. His real life inability to surf complements the anguish he expresses as he can only gaze longingly out into the waves, knowing this part of his life is gone forever. There is nothing lukewarm about the performance by costar Brittany Brooks, but she is definitely running hot and cold in this film. When she is clearly connecting, she is reaching deeply into her emotions and bringing the entire audience with her to that dark and lonely place. But when the connection simply isn’t there, her performance comes off like a table read from Melrose Place. The performances by Seay and Williams are fun and rock solid, both of these talented young ladies are having a blast expressing exactly who they want to be in their roles. The sound design for TangerineLAnd is good and mostly consistent. The soundtrack I did not like at all. The songs are as generic and bland as dollar store pasta; emotionless, tuneless Muzak pasted over the sad parts, and ducttaped to the happy ones.
Following the premiere, director Garner hopes his film will now ride the waves of several film festivals and afterwards, be made available online. TangerineLAnd will certainly hold its own in the festival circuit, swimming with sharks and doing much more than treading water. TangerineLAnd is a fun and entertaining Arizona indie film worth watching, delivering the bittersweet nectar of love lost and rediscovered in a swirling sea of sedulous sentiment.
Final Take – Ocean of emotion.