You know? During the first fifteen minutes or so of this film, I was more or less resigned to one thing. "4:00am" was probably going to end up being a respectable two and a half stars, in my humble opinion. If that is, the actual story was at least good. I know - I know. That sounds lame considering I had only just begun the film. The truth is? A lot of times you can get a feel for a low budget film straight away. Once you get that feel, or that base rating - if you will, you/me expect that depending on how the story progresses, you may fluctuate your rating by half a star either way. It all comes down to presentation. First impressions to coin a phrase. It's only through this aspect you generate interest for the viewer to continue watching. The "average Joe" viewer simply won't give even a great film a chance... if it doesn't look great within the first few minutes.
So what the hell's my point you ask? Perhaps I was a little hasty. You see? It's no secret I'm not a fan of hand held-style movies. That bouncing, jittery, vomit inducing footage just screams low budget. I thank "The Blair Witch Project" for this trend... but at least they had a reason for doing it. The footage was supposed to be real. Right? So Back to "4:00am" we go. It was all pretty much hand held looking. Not a tripod in sight. I resigned myself to an hour and fifteen minutes, or so, of found footage styled movie making. Straight away I knew my base rating. Only... I was wrong.
Somewhere from the time I was introduced to the awkward Doug Courage, and that depressing time at the end of the party, as he helped clean up... I'd actually become so interested I had left any opinions of shoddy camera work at the door. And that guys and gals... is impressive.
The description on the box states this is a coming of age story of sorts. A socially reclusive guy attempting to make a go at fitting in. In truth, and in my opinion, this is the story of a new budding friendship. Maybe even a life-long one. The funny thing? It's not his relationship with "the girl" Juniper I'm talking about. For me, this was about Doug and Cooper. Sure. Underlying concepts of love, and the need to be accepted come into play. Self worth and self respect. But truly this was actually a story of friendship. More to the point... a new friendship. Damn. I was so wrong about this title. So many layers. So many layers indeed.
Now. I've made my opinions on camera movement quite clear. However, at some point during "4:00am" that particular gripe became much less apparent. At first I thought maybe I had just gotten used to it. To some extent, I'm sure I did. But as I quickly went back and scrubbed through some of those final scenes, it was much less apparent. I think maybe the improvement was a mix of both me getting used to it, and, straight up better camera work later on. One thing is for sure... had "all" the camera work been more stable, this film would easily have been a four and a half. Of that I have no doubt.
So what really stands out here? Sure. Robert Trott has scripted a great story. It's not hard to imagine different people coming away with slightly, different ideas on the true meaning of the movie. No matter how you slice it however, it was just damn entertaining. A lot of this comes from the range of different characters. And of course, the ability of the cast to pull them off. One of the true high points of this film is the acting. Everyone. They all felt real. Like the people I used to party with way back when. The emotional connect was fabulous, and for that my thanks goes out to the cast themselves. Those emotional layers are all present in the main characters, as for the supporting cast... a good lot of them I should add, they also felt real. Unscripted. You want the assholes? They're here. The nerdy types? Yup. The typical people at parties are all represented. Making this film truly easy to fall into... maybe even relate with. I really have to hand it to Trott and his troupe. Together they managed to overcome my initial "biased" thoughts, and literally gave me an hour plus of pure entertainment - and a couple laughs to boot. Big round of applause. Job well done.
At the end of the day, my only real concern about "4:00am" is that some people simply won't give it the chance. That "average Joe" viewer may just move right along without giving this film the attention it deserves. For anyone reading this rambling narrative I only have four words. Give it a chance. This was a great indie film that taken as a whole production, is so much more than the sum of it's "technical" limitations.