Summer's in full swing. You can tell by sounds of air conditioners and the 13 ice cream trucks that go by my house every hour. While summer blockbusters may not appeal to all, you do have choices. One of which is "Transatlantic Coffee", one of the oddest boy-meet-girl movies that you'll see in a while.
Inspired by a true story, Alex Howard (Kevin Pinassi) is a 41-year old clown, makeup and all. If you're not scared by clowns yet, you will be. He's a bit of a downer to the point where you're not sure if the booze causes his depression or vice versa. Nevertheless, he's firm in his convictions. I mean, he'll even rock a bow tie and suspenders. His BFF is Ronnie (Marcel Torres), the type of guy who reminds you of your horniest friend in high school. He takes Alex to an "alternative" club, where the women are bold and they've got the cheesy Fredericks of Hollywood lingerie to prove it. Alex; however, is less turned on than annoyed by the women there who seem to focus on the weirdness of his attire over his personality.
The one thing that makes Alex's life worth living is his online relationship with Mandie (Rachel Marie Lewis). The only problem is she's 17 and lives in London. Ronnie tries to talk Alex out of this pre-"To Catch a Predator" meeting in the making, but Alex is determined and of course, horny. She soon comes for a visit and introduces him to a world of colors in more ways than one.
Writer/director Erik Peter Carlson walks the fine line between indie student film and A-list director with this film. The obvious labor of love can be seen by the details taken from the characters costumes to the inclusion of Zee Avi's "Is This the End". Taking on a love story, even a dysfunctional one (and which aren't these days) is a Herculean task since it's easier to make people hate you than it is to love you, but Carlson seems up to the task. He seems to have mastered pacing, not letting Alex and Mandie get too close too soon. The conflict comes in time, but by the time it happens, you actually believe it. The only thing that could've made this film better, besides a cheerier ending, is a bit of editing. It could've easily lost 15 minutes and been fine and the dialogue at times seems very strained, particularly a family argument that could've used a bit more improv or a lot better planning.
Kevin Pinassi may have that familiar character actor look with a bit of Nick Tortelli thrown in, but he stands out as Alex, a character that manages to keep you guessing just how crazy he is. Even with his neurotic behavior, he captures an everyman that seems right out of a 1970's drama. Rachel Marie Lewis is definitely a find, as she manages to be the streetwise ingenue that only guys of a certain age can truly appreciate. She looks older than her character's 17 years, but her acting chops are good enough to overlook it. She'll make you fall for her whether you like it or not. Hers is a character that could've easily gone off the rails by being too flighty or too over the top, but her restraint is the best case for this romantic tragedy and justification for her next shot at the big (or little) screen.
Carlson and crew have much to be proud of with "Transatlantic Coffee" including a twist at the end that most wouldn't see coming. It has the unique feel that it's a bit of a training film for would-be filmmakers as sometimes it doesn't seem sure if it's an examination on love, a stage play, a plight about an inner struggle or a tragic, but romantic noir. "Transatlantic Coffee" isn't everyone's cup of tea (bad pun intended), but it's enough to make you want to see what Carlson, Pinassi and Lewis will serve up next.
To find out more about the film, check them out at: http://www.ridinghoodmotionpictures.com/