LANDING UP (2018)
Starring Stacey Maltin, Ben Rappaport, E’dena Hines, Dov Tiefenbach, Jay DeYonker, Theodora Woolley, James K. Fulater, Jon Lavranos, Grace Capeless, Julie Hays, Marzy Hart, Neal Lerner, Jared Kemp, Edan Jacob Levy, Bettina Skye, Raeden Greer, Brian Ray Norris, Michael Cicetti, Chad Carstarphen, Chris Beier and Nathaniel Jackson.
Screenplay by Stacey Maltin.
Directed by Dani Tenenbaum.
Distributed by Random Media. 98 minutes. Not Rated.
Romantic comedy and homelessness normally don’t seem like two things which would go together well. Just as a matter of tone it seems like it could be awkward mash-up; going from light to dark and back with regularity.
Landing Up actually does a pretty good job of balancing the extremes of its contrasting parts, telling a sweet love story with the backdrop of a tragic life on the mean streets of New York.
The lead character is Chrissy (Stacey Maltin), which is actually one of many aliases used by a twenty-something young woman who landed on the streets after arriving on a bus from Ohio. (Late in the film, it is suggested that her real name may be Katie Jo, but we don’t know 100% sure that this is not just another one of her lies.) There was some vague trouble back home which made her leave home and estranged her from her parents – but she won’t really talk about it.
She has come up with a scam – hanging out at bars and picking guys up – trading sex for drinks, food, drugs and shelter for the night (though never, ever letting them know she is homeless). When she can’t find a taker, she usually ends up at a local shelter, often having to put up with the boss’ harassment for a bed or a lead for a good day job.
Screenwriter and actress Maltin does a good job of showing the contradictions of Chrissy’s character – she pendulums from hard-hearted to desperately needy depending on the situation and the man. Though honestly, she often looks a little bit too healthy, well-fed and clean to be a strung-out homeless woman. (That cleanliness may be chalked up to her always using the guys’ showers before leaving, but I doubt she has time to wash her clothes.)
Chrissy’s best friend (and guardian angel) is Cece (E’dena Hines), a street-life veteran who has been showing her the ropes of survival. Chrissy and Cece are saving money to get an apartment together, though Cece does often stays over with Joe (Dov Tiefenbach), a paranoid (and seemingly bipolar) addict who has his own place.
It’s devastating how good the performance was from late Hines – the step-granddaughter of Morgan Freeman, who was tragically murdered by her addict boyfriend soon after Landing Up finished shooting in 2015. (Watching the scenes with Joe take on additional power knowing her eventual fate.) To make it all the sadder, the boyfriend was just found not guilty of murder about a week before the film debuted on video and streaming, though he was convicted for manslaughter.
So, this is all not sounding too romantic or funny so far, is it? I know, I know, we’re getting there.
The romance comes in the form of David (Ben Rappaport), a handsome advertising exec who “meets cute” with Chrissy (known as Callie to him) by “accidentally” falling onto her while playing frisbee in Central Park, where she is laying out on a sunny day.
He asks her out on a date and they really hit it off. Soon she is spending every night at his place. However, she has to hide her background from him, living a complete fantasy life with him and lying regularly to him. In the meantime, David (and his annoyed single roommate, who is getting tired of having to listen to them having sex through the too-thin walls) can’t understand why they never go to her place, and why no one has seen any of her friends.
In the meantime, he has a hot co-worker who wants to hook up with him. Chrissy is trying to figure out how to break her truth to him, or at the very least find a place to show him as her own. Then he has a business trip with the hot co-worker, she’s stuck on the streets with nowhere to go, and you just know all of this is going to blow up.
Like I said, it’s an interesting merge of romantic comedy and serious drama – honestly the drama ends up taking up more of the storyline than the lighter parts.
Sometimes the movie relies a bit too much on coincidences. Come on, with the millions of porn clips on the internet, what really is the chance that the suspicious roommate would just happen to stumble upon Chrissy’s revenge porn snippet?
Also, sometimes it is a little bit hard to come to terms with the lighter and darker aspects of Chrissy’s personality. I get the fact that she is always acting different ways with different people to survive, but she switches – from good-naturedly goofy, to shut-off despair, to self-confidently assured, to desperately needy – on a dime. Honestly, there as some things she ends up doing, even in desperation, that are difficult to forgive.
Whether Chrissy and David end up together or not, there probably won’t be a happily ever after for her. But I don’t think she wants or expects that, she just wants a better, normal life.
Despite its very dark sections, Landing Up is actually surprisingly funny and upbeat through many parts. Its mood swings can sometimes be a little bit jarring, but overall it is a sweet and likable look at some basically good people who due to circumstances sometimes end up doing some very bad things.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2018 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 15, 2018.