Finally, a low-budget independent film which recognises its financial limitations and works around them brilliantly. Mark Lewis’ Wild Girl Waltz is original and honest, a real comedy, carried out by real comedians. Nothing feels fake, nothing is pushed, nothing has been seen before and absolutely nothing should have been done differently. If anything, Wild Girl Waltz reminds its audience one thing — that some of the most highly paid actors don’t deserve their pay checks. And most of the now-famous screenwriters have forgotten how to keep it real. Samantha Steinmetz, Christina Shipp, Jared Stern and writer-director Mark Lewis might not have the budget, but they certainly have the brains and the soul.
At the end of the day, this turns out to be what matters the most. In this simple but unusual story, two young women, Tara and Angie, take goofy pills to escape the tedium and boredom that today has brought along with it. Tara’s boyfriend and Angie’s brother, Brian, is stuck keeping an eye on them while they’re off on their trip and gradual come-down back to their senses.
Mark Lewis’ script is snappy, clever, direct and very witty. The dialogue could not feel more genuine — as a matter of fact, sometimes the overall atmosphere resembles that of a reality show, and you catch yourself thinking that perhaps you’ve been let in on actual conversations that are taking place between friends. Nothing feels scripted and the characters’ interaction is so realistic and authentic that you find it hard to believe these people aren’t just being themselves.
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Indeed, the actors’ ease in front of the camera is noteworthy. In two instances, I caught myself not only laughing out loud, but also wondering how they did it. First, when Angie’s trip begins, all three characters are on their house terrace, feeling the groove and letting go different ways. Tara has a sudden eruption of lust, Brian is hassled and sarcastic, and Angie… Well, Angie just really lets go and does as she feels. Her moves, the things she says and he facial expressions are pure comedy — and Christina Shipp could not have done it any better.
A bit later in the film, a woman tries to rob their car and Brian (Jared Stern) punches her in the face, leaving her on the ground while the three of them take off. This moment, so unexpected and real, is not only priceless to watch — I actually rewound a few times — but also builds up the conversation that follows between the three characters in the van, beautifully. Keep an ear out for that line exchange after the punch. Brilliant.
The title and the cover of the DVD made me doubt the quality of Wild Girl Waltz. But the minute it began, I realised I was up against something refreshingly pure — a raw comedy, the way it was always supposed to be. Mark Lewis and his very talented cast ditch the fuss and deliver essence. The result is nothing else but what should be left once you’ve removed all unnecessarily fancy layers from a good film. A great comedy — it turns out — can cost very little; just as long as it carries intelligence, talent, humour and passion. Wild Girl Waltz has all that and more.