With the introduction of services like Amazon, iTunes and others, more and more companies opt to release their films online rather than push for a limited theater release. Many of these films would have been categorized as straight-to-DVD or VOD films in terms of quality, but sometimes you find a diamond in the rough or in this case a fish in the sea.
Synopsis: Jobless and hopeless, Rodney hits rock bottom when he finds out his girlfriend Tess cheats on him. With nowhere to go, Rodney drives aimlessly around until his car quits on him, leaving him stranded in front of a strangers house. The next morning he’s awoken by June an ailing drunk widow who busts him for stealing her electricity. Instead of having Rodney arrested, June puts him to work around the house. June’s increasing pity for Rodney eventually earns him a temporary spot in her home which lasts longer than they both anticipated. (Gravitas Ventures)
Starring: Steve Olson, Katherine Cortez and Jenna Willis
Writers: Michael A. MacRae, Jordon Hodges and Wyatt Aledort
Director: Michael A. MacRae
Running Time: 83mins
Many indie films tend to go under the radar because they are released on streaming services that someone may not frequent. A fan of romantic comedies may not hear of a refreshing take on the genre if it’s released on a site that they do not have a subscription to. With so many different options it’s expensive to commit to more than a few, but sometimes these services release a film that makes signing up worthwhile and Fishbowl California is one such film.
The story follows the slowly imploding life of Rodney (Olson), who finds himself jobless, homeless and newly single after discovering his girlfriend Tess (Katrina Bowden) has been cheating on him. Rodney’s life takes a turn when he ends up at the driveway of June (Cortez), an ailing drunk widow, who puts him to work as the two form an unlikely bond.
Fishbowl California is at its core a very relatable story as it deals with the theme of hopelessness through two different perspectives. Through June, it explores this theme by showing how hopelessness can cause someone to spiral into depression. Her anti-social tendencies are rooted in her attempt to deal with loss and her ongoing ailment causing her to feel like nothing is worth doing anymore other than drinking. Meanwhile, Rodney’s hopelessness is seen through his life’s downward spiral caused by a lot of bad luck. Jobless, homeless and newly single, Rodney is an average guy who tries to do good, but has life constantly pushing him down. While both of these characters deal with their individual problems that life has dealt them, the same antagonizing fate brings these two together.
What transpires is a smart, genuine and funny script thanks to the direction and performances. First-time director Michael A. MacRae creates a great, immersive atmosphere that has this film sitting between indie and blockbuster in terms of look and feel. The California sun and sound are a great backdrop to this film helping to set the warm yet zany tone of the story. This is further accented by the cast who, thanks to their unfamiliar faces, are not hindered by their name or past work. Each actor plays a role integral to the plot making the ensemble an important piece to the film’s success. The performances, lead or supporting, all bring something unique to the story helping further the zany feeling of this film.
The two biggest stand outs were definitely the leads Steve Olson and Katherine Cortez. Cortez’ June is the perfect antagonist for Rodney as she is both a contrast to his character while being a relatable companion on their journeys of self-discovery. She feels a lot like Frances McDormand in Three Billboards with a little less vengeance and a lot more cynicism. Meanwhile, Steve Olson is the film. He is extremely relatable using his natural charisma and great comedic timing to play into his deadpan style of humour. No matter what he is doing, it’s hard to not be invested in Rodney’s actions thanks to Olson’s performance.
Overall, Fishbowl California is a heartfelt, charming indie dramedy that is anything but indie. It feels like a blockbuster with a story that is smart and filled with witty humour, genuine moments and some very relatable themes and perspectives. The outstanding direction creates an engaging atmosphere paired with some phenomenal and charismatic performances that prove this is that one fish in the sea. It is one of the big indie hits of 2018.
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