29 to Life (2018)

29 to Life
Director: Alex Magaña
Writer: Alex Magaña
Cast: Murphy Patrick Martin, Diana Cristina (aka Diana Solis), Hayley Ambriz, Kaden Cole, Sherry Driggs, Rocky Hart
Seen on: 29.5.2018
[Screener Review.]

Barnaby (Murphy Patrick Martin) is 29, but so far he successfully avoided growing up. But it’s time to face life when his girlfriend Elaina (Hayley Ambriz) breaks up with him and his parents (Sherry Driggs, Rocky Hart) kick him out of their house the very same day to try and force him to get a job. Barnaby finds himself living in his car and still trying to avoid any kind of responsibility. When hunger motivates him to go to his high school reunion (in the hope of finding a buffet there), he runs into Madison (Diana Cristina) and the two re-connect. And maybe Madison can give Barnaby the final push he needs.

29 to Life is very obviously a film by a young man made without a budget who hasn’t made a feature before. How forgiving you are about the drawbacks that come with that will vary. Personally, I struggled a little with Barnaby and the male perspective that permeates the script. That being said, it does have its sweet touches.

The set-up of the film is pretty much made of sexist tropes, especially in its female characters. To wit, the evil ex who is evil for not being content with an unemployed, unmotivated manchild who refuses to grow up (although we later discover that she was also unfaithful, making her doubly evil) and the new girl who is hot, but also into football, and her coolness doesn’t prevent her from organizing Barney’s life for him. Why either of them would bother with Barnaby in the first place remained unclear to me and seemed to boil down to “because that’s what women do, isn’t it?”.

Thankfully, due to Diana Cristina’s (or Diana Solis, as she is credited) performance, Madison at least escapes the fate of being a complete fantasy, as she manages to ground her in real emotion. Unfortunately that makes the moment where Barnaby tramples all over her feelings in the worst way and her almost immediate forgiveness of it, even more unbearable and an ill-advised move in the script.

There are more things about the script that didn’t work out for me. The biggest thing was the ending that is supposed to be this big romantic gesture, but in fact it negates the entire character development Barnaby went through. I would have liked it much more had he stuck with a decision for once and taken on some responsibility and maybe make the big gesture after a living as a grown up on his own for a while. But there were also smaller things: Barnaby strikes up a rivalry with a teenager, Will (Kaden Cole), a relationship that seems almost entirely placed in the film to make room for fat jokes. The occasional homomisic remark was also generally unnecessary.

With all of this, I could see myself hating the film but somehow I didn’t. It has some nice, genuinely funny moments. It also has good pacing and despite being rather long for a film of its kind, doesn’t make itself felt, but passes the time nicely. But its biggest saving grace, in my opinion, was that it doesn’t take Barnaby too seriously. It is well aware that he is a ridiculous character and it’s perfectly alright with it. That provides the film with just the necessary charm to make it work.

Summarizing: It’s not a revelation, but it’s mostly cute.

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