After four years of on-again off-again production, “Love a la Carte” directed by Tim McSpadden, has finally been completed and presented on the big screen. “Love a la Carte” premiered at the Super Saver Cinemas-8 on Saturday, February 4. A long time labor of love for director McSpadden, “Love a la Carte” began pre-production back in 2009, completing scenes whenever possible, and whenever the actors were available. Traipsing across Arizona to explore many of the spectacular locations the state provides, “Love a la Carte” offers a bevy of breathtaking scenery, and a host of local indie actresses in various stages of undress.
LalC follows the story of executive Phil Anders (Aaron Ginn-Fosberg) and his wife Evelyn (Chauna Mae) as they approach a speed bump in their relationship: the sex-obsessed Phil is no longer desired by his suffering wife. After his doctor (Daniel Ganea) informs him that, unless he releases his accumulated semen via actual male/female intercourse, he will die of testicular cancer. His pleas for life-saving sex fall upon Evelyn’s unsympathetic ears, leaving him no choice but to seek the services of a willing female via the Internet. As his helpful cyber-pimp (Michael Alvarez) provides a smorgasbord of beauties, Phil becomes accustomed to the lovely Angela (Kimber Leigh), the perfect ‘other woman.’ Angela is just as libidinous as Phil, desiring only sex without commitment. As Phil’s open liaisons with Angela continue, his marriage is tested to the limits of its origin, and the logic for remaining in the ‘bonds’ of matrimony is picked apart.
The performances delivered in LalC are strong and surprising, maintaining a startling consistency given the extensive periods the actors went through of not performing in their roles. Kimber Leigh’s performance provides an early glimpse into an up and coming indie actress, revealing the roles she could competently undertake were she not typecast in so many later productions. Ginn-Fossberg is engaging and maintains an energy for both his role and his dialog, while a very uncomfortable, often incomprehensible Chauna Mae spits out dialog like every line was one word. This film, however, is rescued and resuscitated by the superb performance of Mr. James Ray, in his role as Phil’s friend and confidant Gene. Ray maintains a visible, perfect balance of personal detachment countered by professional immersion. Ray is serious, sober and sincere in each scene, and provides the necessary anchor in a sea of mostly unappealing characters, the only (mildly muted) voice of reason in a quagmire of contrived conflict. The photography in LalC is outstanding and often captivating, leaving the talents of cinematographer Joel Kaye seemingly squandered in this jejune, locker room romp through incessantly oozing bodily fluids, health class hijinks and a litany of junior-high sex jokes. The sex scenes are extensive and extended, comprising much of the action in LalC, and there’s plenty of guns and violence as well. If there were ever an award presented for ‘Best use of the light-rail as a metaphor for impotence’ it would certainly go to this film. The lumbering suppository on wheels appears constantly and prominently throughout LalC; a tin train with an mp3 horn, pathetically imitating economic virility, and only via the constant infusion of corporate Viagra.
At times, LalC attempts to offer a degree of morality, especially when the child of Phil and Evelyn is (literally) caught in the middle of their strained relationship. As the lascivious mom and dad awkwardly read to the child at night, they exchange tense, knowing glances between them. But the superficial irony presented in these scenes only illustrates the real tragedy wrought by the behavior of the self absorbed, irresponsible parents. LalC incorporates (sometimes via fantasy) several political comedy sketches, barbs at religion, and heaps of Hustler magazine humor. The dialog is quite sharp at first, but becomes dull and pointless rapidly, as raucous and clever adult humor quickly degenerates into shock simply for the purpose of shock. At the apex of the film, no moral epiphany is reached, no peripeteia takes place and Mr. Anders’ psychosexual journey of self-discovery ends abruptly. The entire movie begins again, but instead of the musings of a pontificating penis, the de novo is told in vagina monologues, as poor Mrs. Anders relates her woeful tale of why she had no choice but to cheat as well, and how she too must have sex with strangers in order to save her marriage.
The lengthy passage of time LalC has undergone before its completion and release provides an unfortunate time-capsule of sorts, representing one of many productions undertaken during this same period (some of the films completed, and some as-yet unseen) revealing the dysthymiac days of early AZ indie; days spent relishing in the harmless humor and funny frivolity of infidelity, with some resulting (years later) in real human wreckage. Prior to the film, director McSpadden reveals his plans to take the proceeds from merchandise sales and box office receipts from the present rendering of LalC, and use the funds to create an even bigger and better version of the same film. And for the life of me, I cannot fathom why.
“Love a la Carte” pretends to honestly, but humorously reveal the colorful, quirky and captivating characters you’ll encounter as you partake in the joys of adulterous sex with several strangers, all for the noble purpose of matrimonial salvation. But this box of Crayolas in a burning boudoir only illustrates the suffocating void found within the shadows of the white picket fence, where bloated pink suburbanites gather in a room illuminated by a silk covered lamp, retrieving car keys from a fish bowl. While “Love a la Carte” promises the viewer “an honest comedy about cheating,” instead it provides another casuist AZ offering of infidelity; a Technicolor confessional performed in the quarter booth of the adult bookstore, with fingers crossed behind the back.
Final Take – No love.
“Love a la Carte” screens 7pm every Saturday in February at the Super Saver Cinema-8, and also as a special engagement presented by the Filmstock Film Festival on Sunday February 17 at 7pm at the Tempe Pollack Theatre.