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MOVIE REVIEW: ECHO PARK echoes with the vibe and energy of its namesake enclave

movie still from ECHO PARK
movie still from ECHO PARKTurntable Studios

A noteworthy film that truly celebrates the diversity and eclectic nature of Los Angeles comes compliments of renowned photographer turned first-time director, Amanda Marsalis. ECHO PARK stars Mamie Gummer, Anthony Okungbawa and a delightful new young talent in Ricky Rico as it explores the life of Gummer’s Sophie. With a perfect life and perfect boyfriend/fiancé in Beverly Hills, you’d think Sophie would be content and satisfied, but she’s not. Desperate for a change, she leaves her man and her life, uprooting herself and heading all the way across town to ECHO PARK.

Finding a whole new unfamiliar and at times uncomfortable world, now forced to stand on her own two feet, Sophie finds a connection with her neighbor Alex. Bonding over the purchase of a couch, Alex is a British ex-pat who is moving back to London at the end of the summer. In other words, with a definite time line for any potential relationship that doesn’t include long-term committment, Alex may be an ideal companion for Sophie during this phase of her life. Out-going, fun, interesting, intelligent, and willing to put up with her moodiness and uncertainties, their connection blossoms into a romance filled with a love of vinyl records and the artsy community closeness of the neighborhood. But can their relationship continue if Alex leaves and the even bigger question, is this more casual and engaging life what Sophie wants.

Set against a script by Catalina Aguilar Mastretta, Gummer and Okungbowa delight with performances and a chemistry that rise above what could have proven to be cliched stereotypes. ECHO PARK is at its strongest and most emotionally resonant and vibrant when they are onscreen together. Unfortunately the two aren’t always enough to mount some of the uneven hurdles of the story and ill-conceived pacing of the film as a whole. However, despite some of the storytelling glitches, everything comes together for a climactic resolution of welcome complicated nuances that belie the expected traditional romantic tropes.

Cinematographer Jason McCormick’s lens has a life of its own. Capturing the seemingly mundane and lacing it with interesting framing and cooler, often dreamy visual tones, color comes into play metaphorically mirroring Sophie’s moods and journey of self-exploration. But as much as the camera helps tell the story of Sophie, it tells the story of ECHO PARK with a subtle, eclectic beauty that is enticing and welcoming. Capitalizing on her intimate knowledge of ECHO PARK, resident Marsalis knows the vistas and hidden sanctuaries that give ECHO PARK its unique vibe and often “rural sentimentality”, bringing all to the screen with an insider’s intimacy that McCormick then deftly lenses with texture and nuance.

Fueling the ECHO PARK energy is a perfectly blended soundtrack of contemporary indie rock and R&B compliments of composer/music supervisor Christopher H. Knight.

With the look and feel that captures the independent spirit of filmmaking and Los Angeles, ECHO PARK lights up the screen with an artsy sun-kissed vibe .

Directed by Amanda Marsalis
Written by Catalina Aguilar Mastretta
Cast: Mamie Gummer, Anthony Okungbawa, Ricky Rico, Helen Slater, Maurice Compte, Gale Harold

(Los Angeles Film Festival 2014 review - World Premiere)