TL;DR – A film that takes an interesting premise and then does nothing of note with it.
Score – 1.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Today we look at a film trying to be a snapshot of a time and a place, which unfortunately fails on both accounts. Which is a real shame because there is a lot of potential in the direction the film was heading in that just never eventuates. Because of this, our review will be more of a constructive look at some of the ways it went wrong so you can avoid these traps in the future.
So to set the scene, in 1966, the world is on the precipice of global failure with two nuclear powers on the brink of calamity and the draft for the Vietnam War accelerating. Liza (Mikey Madison) is just finishing up the school year when she runs into the new trumpet player Brett (Sean H. Scully). They lament on the state of the world, and of their mutual issues with their guardians. When Brett, let’s Liza know that he is moving across the country after the summer, they decide to take a trip up the Californian coast while they still can.
One area where the film does not work is with its setting. This film is set in the 1960s, and it does endeavour to match that with the props. However, a setting, notably a historical setting, is more than just the veneer of stuff. It is the mood, dialogue, environment, and theme. A no point did it feel like this was the 1960s, the stuff is there, but the reality is not. It feels like someone read about the 1960s from a second-hand account in a book somewhere and then went with it.
A good example of this is right at the start of the film when we have Bert the Turtle and Duck and Cover, juxtaposed with some very recent shoots of Los Angles with some minor edits to the Hollywood sign. All this does is create a visual dissonance that permeates itself through the rest of the film. I think the worst part about it is that the narrative did not need to be set in the 1960s, and could have been comfortably situated in the modern-day. This would probably have been a better use of the limited resources the film was clearly working with.
The next area where the film does not reach its potential is with its dialogue. I was twenty minutes into this film when I realised what the primary issue that was bugging me was. At no point did any of the conversation feel genuine; this is an issue that stretches the length of the film. Some moments exist only to get exposition out of the way. For example, at the start of the film when we meet Mother (Kristin Minter) for the first time, we get “You really do hate me!” out of nowhere. Followed but an awkward explanation that Liza’s father killed himself and how Liza blames her mother for his death, maybe. It happens throughout the film, and it is a real drain on your attention. The vast majority of the dialogue in this film exists purely to forward the story rather than character development. Which just makes everything feel stilted, from the performances to the structure of the film.
All of this leads us to the last area where the film does not work, the structure. Once we take off on our voyage, our heroes experience several events. These almost vignette moments are meant to harken back to an older style of narrative like Alice in Wonderland, where Alice goes around experiencing a bunch of things. However, while that might work for a fantasy setting, a real-life environment where each new reveal is a different beach lacks that same drive. It is also in these moments when the film wants to make some kind of statement of that time, but this too falls flat. Add to this some moments that come out of nowhere and go from 0 to Creepy at 100kph, and you get some profoundly uncomfortable viewing.
In the end, do we recommend Liza, Liza, Skies Are Grey? Unfortunately no, no we don’t. There might have been a good premise in there, but due to budget or other constraints, it just does not come together. For a film that works a little bit better in the same space, I would recommend Booksmart.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Liza, Liza, Skies Are Grey
Directed by – Terry Sanders
Written by – Terry Sanders
Music by – Charles Bernstein
Cinematography by – Erik Daarstad
Edited by – Terry Sanders
Production/Distribution Companies – Ocean Releasing & Vision Films
Starring – Mikey Madison, Sean H. Scully, Kristin Minter, Kwame Boateng, John0Paul Lavoisier, Valerie Rae Miller, Marina Michelson, Sonya Eddy, Robert John Brewer, Matthew T. Lange & Avi Rothman
Rating – Around an Australia: M;