Living The Dream

2006, Movie, NR, 84 mins


Cowriter/codirector/coproducer and star Christian Schoyen's drama about childhood friends trying to grasp the brass ring in Los Angeles begs the question, "What's the difference between an independent film and a vanity project?"

Little Brenda and Norwegian-born Jonathan were best friends in Eugene, Oregon, united against bullies who tormented them. Both moved to Los Angeles and remained close, but as middle age approaches they remain unhappy and put-upon. Brenda (Sean Young) sells used cars and is married to the coarse, cruel Dick (Jeff Conaway), who runs a telemarketing business and lives up to his name. Jonathan (Schoyen) works for him, but lacks the hard-sell personality the job requires; it doesn't help that his accent is as strong as when he was fresh off the boat. After Brenda works up the nerve to leave Dick, he fires Jonathan. Broke and desperate, the friends decide to become corporate headhunters, scamming seed money through insurance fraud and sweet-talking an old acquaintance from back home (Danny Trejo) into becoming their first client. Unfortunately, the promise of big money goes to Jonathan's and Brenda's heads: They rent expensive offices, lease a Porsche and splurge on designer clothes on the theory that they have to look rich to attract rich clients. They hire a staff of obnoxious incompetents and spend their off hours frequenting a "chic" downtown nightclub where rent boys vie for the attentions of drunken rich women like Vanessa (Brazilian actress Marilia Pera, reduced to a truly humiliating state). Jonathan picks up gold diggers, while Brenda is reduced to soliciting Internet dates who, upon realizing she's somewhat older than her online photo, flee as though they'd come face-to-face with something that lives under a bridge. The whole thing eventually goes south, at which point they cook up another, even sleazier scam involving a bogus animal charity — the lesson apparently being that you should never let morals stand in the way of dreams. Schoyen, a corporate headhunter and casting agent, shows no particular flair for any of the many roles he plays in this production, while his costar, the once promising Young, looks pitifully nervous and more than a little confused. While the film isn't entirely amateurish — shots are cut together and the cinematography is professional if not precisely stylish — the story feels as though large pieces are missing and the characters behave so inconsistently that there's zero incentive to care about their tribulations. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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