Written By: Darrick Silkman,
Directed By: Aaron Gum
Genre: Drama, Comedy
First impressions of "Stuck On Neal", based on the initial twenty minutes were positive, although not overly. I was witnessing a decent low budget flick, complete with the hallmark's of most independent productions. I'll be the first to admit it was better than expected, mainly because it lacked any real poster art. For those reading I'm a little sad to say but poster art generally dictates my first impressions. Like real life, first impressions mean a lot and without that box art one can usually expect the worst. Thankfully, things started on a good note in this case. Still, good note or not, I was watching just a decent independent film. Nothing to really win me over it seemed. "Darrick Silkman" and "Faustus McGreeves" had penned a dramatic feature, that focused on all the things many of us find important. Friends, family and simply getting older. Nothing overly original yet written well enough to keep me interested. As the film progressed however, a change began to take place. At some point into the movie, I was actually being drawn right in, like this film was a black hole! Straight through to the end! As it turns out, when it's all said, done and over, "Stuck On Neal" truly is an entertaining piece, one I was happy to have given my time to.
Labelled as a dramatic comedy, I think it's safe to say the drama begins to take hold about half way through, leaving the comedic elements in the shadows. All in the sake of entertainment! The beauty of this film however, is not it's super imaginative story... rather it's gritty and real nature. There's no true happy ending here. I could even argue that the ending itself is quite sad. It is real though. Like life itself, there's no clear cut path to a good ending... or a good life.
Taking the helm is "Aaron Gum" who does, eventually finds his stride and pulls a directorial rabbit out of his hat. As I wrote above, the first act of "Stuck On Neal" seemed full of indie give-aways including: A strange need for really close-up shots, some awkward dialog and then, some weird choices of edits; which I realize has nothing to do with the director, but possibly has to do with the shots themselves, which were supervised by the director. Then, like a switch being hit things change. Everything begins to flow and the Gum's choices, mixed with the choices in post, propel the film well above what my initial feelings of it were. The cast, who came across as slightly hollow at first, burst with life and deliver some excellent performances. I couldn't help but to keep comparing Neal (Darrick Silkman) to a younger John Noble. The point... ladies and gents... is that by the end of the film I actually felt for these characters. A tribute not only to the actors themselves, but also the director.
"Stuck On Neal" really is a good film that easily hold it's ground against the heavily budgeted big films of the day. Maybe not at first, but by the end you'll be a believer. Keeping the film gritty and real, I completely understood the way the ending unfolded. However, I couldn't help but think that with a few changes, this film could have left the viewer feeling much happier about the outcome, and themselves. Sometimes it just feels better to have everything work out the way we, the watchers expect. But, at the same time, the way it sits now, clearly leaves an impression. Change can be good... but it can also hurt. If you're looking for some powerful performances and a script that feels real, here it is. "Stuck On Neal" is not only a solid indie, but it's a solidly good film.
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