Alright. Right out of the gate I was really unsure if I'd like this movie all that much. I dig indie film, of course, but never held much love for the really artsy or experimental stuff. I've also made no secret that I'm not a huge fan of musicals either. I only bring this up because on the surface and through the description, Carlton Sugarman's film "The Amateur" feels like it's all of the above. Truth is... it is all of the above... only done right - and with some actual talent behind the wheel. Both in front of and behind the camera. This also happens to be a film with an actual story. It may sound ridiculous to write... but a lot of the films relating to the above style(s) - don't actually have a cohesive story. They are mainly designed to tell a very loose story with visuals. More about the feeling you get when you watch, with the narrative playing second fiddle. "The Amateur" doesn't have these strings pulling it back. This truly is a film that manages to retain it's artistic quality, and at the same time it does tell an entertaining story.
Joey is a musician. Singer, writer and guitar player. Most of us know the type, and most of us know these guys are usually the ones you want to hang out with - when a fun time is needed. Charming, exciting and just maybe the next big thing. Only... after the party... that's not real life. That's not the way things end up for these kinds of people. Most of the time. The same qualities that make a musician so fun to hang with, also generally make them unpredictable and dare I say... irresponsible. This is the cliche. A hard truth that isn't lost on Joey or his friends and family. "The Amateur" chronicles this musical struggle from both sides as Joey, attempts to climb the ladder of success. The ups and downs personally and professionally. The hits and misses. The expectations and of course, the life both awesomely inspiring and brutally skeptical. It's truly hard to write much else without giving away the complete story of the film - but I can write this. Generally speaking, "The Amateur" is not a totally fresh story. We've seen this film before in one form or another. Sugarman however, manages to put a seemingly fresh take on an age old story - and the cast breathe life into it. What surprised me most and separated this movie from so many others? The smooth transition from a movie about an aspiring rock star in a tough industry, to a film about how brutal life in general, can be. The good. The bad and the ugly.
Technically, "The Amateur" as a micro budget film, in many ways, plays off like it had much higher production values, than it actually did. Sure. A time or two I could hear the "wind noise" kick in - especially after some of the numerous montage type scenes, but the flawed audio transitions are hardly worth mentioning. When compared to the excellent recordings of the tracks within the film, that in themselves are pretty damn good, I wonder why I even brought it up? The visuals themselves were all pretty top notch, and the editing/pacing of the movie all felt right. Pushing the narrative along... the way it was meant to be pushed forward. That's not to say this film didn't have a few drawbacks. These were mainly in the form of loose ends. "The Amateur" ends off, in many ways, like it started. A giant full circle within the story. Numerous plot points were left wide open, and some potential ideas were introduced and forgotten. It's really a double edged sword. On one hand... life is messy. For sheer realism we can all agree that loose ends are a thing of life. On the other hand, this is a film. Entertainment. A wide open ending can be a bit of a let down. That's for sure. With that said however, one area Carlton Sugarman got things right, was with the casting. This indie flick features a rather large cast. Name dropping would require a write-up two or three times the size of this one... so let me just say that everyone played their parts completely above and beyond what I expected. Joey Baldwin however, as our leading man, really made his character believable. He wasn't the perfect do-gooder kind of hero, more the average Joe with big dreams and realistic problems. But damn did the supporting cast really do a great job at making Baldwin's character seem like a real person, living a real life. No higher compliment can be made.
In the end, "The Amateur" sets out to entertain first. It succeeds. It really doesn't matter about what plot point wasn't fully addressed. It doesn't matter that the ending is left a little open. When you are watching... you simply get sucked into the world Sugarman has created. This was an easy movie to enjoy and I personally did just that. A well earned and solid four stars. In my humble opinion.