Monday, April 30, 2018

Film Review: Nothing Good Ever Happens

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2018
Images from the Internet
Nothing Good Ever Happens
Written and directed by Henrique Couto
New Dynamic
91 minutes, 2016

Normally, when a director switch-hits genres, it’s either sub-genres within the same genus (horror comedy, horror drama, horror Giallo, psychological horror, etc.), or it’s a one-off to push their own comfort level as an experiment, and then go back to the theme from whence they came. Hence the auteur label.

Henrique Couto, the director of this micro-budget film is a bit different in that way. Yes, there is a stylistic similarity which is pretty inevitable (as an example of that theory, does the name M. Night Shyamalan ring a bell?), but Couto does manage to genre-hop like few others do. Sure, he does horror (e.g., Devil’s Trail), but there is also the likes of Westerns (Calamity Jane’s Revenge), warm and romantic themes (Making Out) and family-oriented releases (A Bulldog for Christmas). He’s also done at least a couple of comedies about depression, such as this one.

Bradley Diehl and Josh Miller
A comedy about depression? What’s more, a decent comedy about depression?! In the words of that deep, spiritual philosopher, Keanu Reeves, “Woooooh.” For this story, Neil (Josh Miller), in a role similar to the Ben Affleck character in Chasing Amy (1997), is an artist who is suffering through some tough breaks. These include a go-nowhere career as a for-hire industrial artist, some friends that bully him, and most importantly, his live in girlfriend Amanda (the always wonderful Erin R. Ryan, who appears in many Couto films) leaves him with little warning, though the viewer gets see a few of the signs. To make matters worse, he accidentally drinks a glass of bleach while in a drunken stupor, and no one will believe him that he was not trying do away with himself over Amanda.

This is where we pretty much pick up the story, as it is told in a mixture of being in the moment and flashbacks. But the basic plot, which in itself is enjoyable, is not all of what makes this film stand out to me. Rather, it’s the way Couto plays with the convention of the story, switching thing up in ways one would not expect, especially in this type of story. His formula is to not be formulaic. Sounds like a contradiction, I know, but that’s what makes it work.

Erin R. Ryan
For one example, most of his friends, including his ex-, turn out to actually be quite toxic, but one of the truest friends who sticks by him, is the not-too-smart, occasionally racist and complete boneheaded Dave (joyfully played by Bradley Diehl). His idea to cheer up Neil is to make up a screechy song called “Neil is an Asshole.” We’ve all had good friends like this, that others would look at and think, what do they see in each other, but it works. Also, that Dave is a sympathetic character rather than being merely an annoyance, shows in both the writing and the portrayal. Another true friend turns up who starts as a rival, Mia (Marylee Osborne, in a really spot-on and impressive reading of her role). Both of these are probably just who you would not expect to be helpful, and in turn it’s the good friends that are toxic and the ones who usually end up in the buddy role in most films.

In a similar fashion, there is a nice little twist in the story about a possible love interest that I will not give away (hopefully) that just shows how smart the film actually is, as opposed to being merely a Lifetime Move-of-the-Week type.

One of my favorite characters in the film is the court-ordered psychologist (Chandra McCracken) who Neil is to obligated to see. She is a wound up looney (reminding me Dr. Cheryl Kinsey, a sex psychologist played by Andrea Martin on “SCTV”), and scarily similar to someone that I once saw as a teen in a similar capacity. She asks really personal questions in a negative-yet-monotone-yet-distant tone, and is hilarious.

Coquette du Jour
In other words, the film is definitely character-driven, and sometimes it’s the moments that impress, such as a disappearing parent, a rebound relationship that takes some surprising turns (with the lovely professional burlesque dancer Coquette du Jour), or a just-met family friend (a nice cameo by Al Snow, who keeps impressing me with his mostly short bits, that I’ve seen, in indie films of various genres).

As with many indie filmmakers who work on micro-budget productions like this one, they find their niche location, and with Couto, it’s the Dayton, OH, area. He has a community, and many of these actors have worked together enough to know each other’s rhythms, and have learned how to play off of each other in ways that give great chemistry, and help move the film along to make it both more believable and especially give a human touch that many large-moolah productions lack.

Again, while the dialog is humorous and the plot is filled with some unexpected twists and turns, it’s not only that and the characters that make this film successful, but also that these fictional beings are given some level of respect, even within the disrespect they sometimes give each other. It’s warm without being mushy, it’s romantic without being sloppy, and there’s some raunchy bits without it being embarrassing for couples to watch together.


Entire free film:

Bonus short 

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