Mike Cuenca, Dan Rojay
"I'll Be Around" is essentially a really good film with one itty-bitty problem. It's way too long, and has way too much happening. I'll be blunt, it took two sittings to watch through - and what frustrates me is that it has so much going for it. If I were to take a guess, I would say that whoever edited this film was very close to the script itself - it really, really shows to anyone on the outside looking in. Mike Cuenca's film should have been around an hour and twenty minutes - give or take, instead it's a hefty two-hour tour. You may be thinking two hours isn't all that bad, but context is key - and the massive amounts of excess make the two hours feel more like three.
This film involves, and revolves around punk rock - and I'm not just talking about playing it either. As a matter of fact, the actual playing of music is secondary to the hoard of plot lines in this movie. A woman with a reasonably successful music career, that has some serious issues, to a few thieves, to a roady needing to come up with a good chunk of cash quickly, to paying the bills and still doing what you love, to this and that - and everything in between. I mean... I can't say for sure but I'd be willing to bet there are around a dozen stories here, and much more than a dozen characters. It's all brought together using a concert as a wrap-around - but man, it's hard to follow...
...and yet... the cast are all pretty damn good from what I remember. The situations feel like they could be real, and the conversations definitely don't feel like they were scripted. There are also more than a few funny moments here, mixed with more serious aspects that make this film interesting. The truth is that although it took two sittings, I still managed to get through it all and was reasonably satisfied by the end. I have no doubt that if "I'll Be Around" wasn't so cluttered and lengthy, I would have easily dropped a four-star review - perhaps even higher. The good of this film really is good - that good. In my humble opinion, as it sits right now this is still an above-average movie - and the backing score kicks ass.
From a production standpoint, Cuenca's film holds up pretty well. The camera works for the style and genre, and aside from a few instances where the dialog couldn't quite cut through the music, everything is peachy. As stated above, the massive cast all manage to keep above water and the story/concept is sound. It really is the indulgences the narrative takes that stop "I'll Be Around" from being truly excellent.
You see, there are full stories in this movie that could have been cut right out. They didn't progress the story, and offered no real value. There are also scenes that do the same. "I'll Be Around" ends up repeating certain elements over and over - adding to the overall length. I stated that I believed whoever edited this film was close to the script - and will stand by that statement. As a rule, an editor not involved is generally hired because if you're to close... you want to keep everything. You may like a certain performance, a certain look, or a specific joke and work it in when you really shouldn't. An external editor would realize that it wasn't needed to push the movie forward - they have no attachment to the story, other than for it to be the best it can be. Same as plot elements. If you wrote it... why on earth would you want to chop it out? Sometimes, breaking the editor rule does work well for a film... most of the time it doesn't. If it's not needed, if it doesn't push the plot forward, cut it out. That's what the directors cut is for.
"I'll Be Around" is funny, interesting, and a little long-winded. There's just so much going on that it's hard to focus on the characters. But by no means is this film a wash - quite the opposite. Although I firmly believe that it is a little much for the casual viewer, that doesn't mean Mike Ceunca and Dan Rojay's film won't find an audience just the way it is. Three stars from me - and a thumbs up. Well done.