There is too much going on in I’ll Be Around, and has a cast so huge even Robert Altman would have a hard time keeping track of balancing all their narratives. There are overwhelming themes, content, and moods that would have any viewer “dazed and confused” trying to follow along.
This indie tale is centered around a punk festival in a fictional L.A. known as Petropolis, a perfect place to explore 30-somethings trying to make it as post-punk musicians all the while dealing with depression, loneliness, artistic highs, and lows as well. The woven interconnectivity brings all the characters together one way or another on one day of the festival. However, while the story’s premise is exciting, the way it jumps from scene to scene though, it cannot continuously keep me engaged with the sprawling two-hour film. By the end, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of relief that it was over.
I’ll Be Around was directed, produced, edited, and scored by Mike Cuenca. He even starred in the film as well and co-wrote the script with Dan Rojay. Cuenca and Rojay wrote an excellent dialogue that was gritty and raw and, at times, a little spoofy of post-punk musicians that when I wasn’t confused by the quick scene change, I felt empathy for the struggling musicians. The dialogue brings a sense of authenticity to the fictional characters brought to life in this film. Even though I was confused most of the time, the dialogue helped me move along with the movie and somewhat feel like I knew what would happen next.
Now, in typical movie fashion, there is always a plot. However, there isn’t a plot per-say but comprises a series of vignettes that gradually coalesce as the characters intersect. It is an interesting take; instead of just focusing on one protagonist throughout the film, there is no one protagonist. All the characters have a part to play, some more so than others. The actors were exceptional in bringing their character to life in a spoofy kind of way that made me think that this couldn’t be the life of a 30-something post-punk musician, but it wasn’t enough to keep me engaged in that drawn-out two-hour film.
The film would have benefitted much more if the movie wasn’t so long and that there aren’t so many characters to build upon a few particular characters like Eve Valentine (Sarah Lawrence), a successful but burned-out rocker. Kip (Brendan Takash) a helpless romantic who desperately searches for the one (I couldn’t help but feel hopeful for him). There is a little boy who selling THC-laced cookies to festival attendees. I don’t think he was aware that the cookies are THC-laced, but that was entertaining in itself to watch. I say I think because I’m not really sure what happened.
I do, however, can appreciate that Cuenca doesn’t try and tie everything together. There are too many characters to keep track of, and to try and wrap up their storyline would feel very chaotic to watch, and would I say it would end in complete disaster. He went for a far more bittersweet end for some characters, and others had no end to their story, but it worked. As a director, Cuenca does a great job was balancing drama and comedy but when he put in some semi-horror stuff, it kind of sent my head for a spin because I was not expecting that at all. I also feel about moving the movie along; he should have been cut from the film entirely because it didn’t work, and it is unnecessary. I couldn’t help but ask myself, what is the point?
I think the style of the film’s production done by Cuenca matches the look of punk aesthetics perfectly and that it was a micro-budget film all worked well together. If the movie wasn’t micro-budgeted, I would feel that the aesthetics mark would have been missed entirely. I can’t tell if that was on purpose or just lucky, but whatever the circumstance for the limited resources, it does make for a more understanding of post-punk musicians. Cuenca clearly loves music but especially punk music as it can be played throughout the film, in the background, and when bands play at the festival, and he manages to catch all the gritty fun. I found the music was the best part of this film, and it flowed endlessly; I couldn’t help but bob my head to the music as bands would play their music.
One aspect of the most exciting and unique to the film was the stylistic choices that Cuenca chooses to put in his movie. There were brightly yellow colored title cards placed throughout the film and a short intermission that breaks the narrative. It was refreshing, and it was clear to see that Cuenca knew what he was doing, and it played well into all other aspects of the film.
It was the most fun to see notable cameos such as punk and deathrock legend Frank Agnew as a diner’s proprietor. Casey Royer from DI as a Bartender, Jonah Ray of MST3K, and The Nerdist as a hypnotist. My favorite cameo was J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. as a wise pawnbroker, who I honestly felt had the best monologue of the entire film.
Verdict: 2.5 of out 5 stars
I’ll Be Around is a great film to see if you are looking for a solid drama-comedy with great music and love going to concerts and checking out the latest band, then this is the movie for you. However, the pacing of the final hour was poorly done. Too many storylines that were focused on that it does force it to overstay its welcome.