Review by Mark Schwab
Now here is an excellent independent film that, after just 80 or so minutes, you find has snuck up and really grown on you. Being Awesome is about old high school friends, deep insecurities and deciding to face them head on. It is exactly the type of film I crave during summers of mostly forgettable celluloid. Allen C. Gardner does the Orson Welles thing here by writing, producing, directing and starring as former high school jock Teddy Adams. Gardner acquits himself beautifully on all counts.
The movie sets the tone quickly by beginning at a 10-year high school reunion where Lloyd (Drew Smith) is only attending because he promised his therapist he would (even taking selfies with unknown former classmates to prove it to him). Recently divorced from his high school sweetheart (who's attending with her new boyfriend), Lloyd was a lonely, unpopular art nerd in high school and is barely showing a pulse these days by sleepwalking through his teaching job and feeling powerless.
But at that reunion he also meets Teddy Adams who was one of the most popular jock kids at that high school. Teddy is also dealing with issues of not living up to his potential and is just coasting along also feeling powerless. He is just as unfulfilled as Lloyd is, but better at covering it up with his looks and smile. Luckily for both of them, they strike up an unlikely friendship and decide to "be awesome" instead of victims. And they'll do it together.
The message I love in Being Awesome is that it totally supports the idea of getting out of your destructive patterns but to be aware that when you decide to make Big Changes it doesn't always go smoothly and in fact can get pretty messy. And that messiness is a very good thing because if it wasn't a challenge, then maybe it isn't a very big change.
I know that all might sound kind of new agey and trite - but trust me the movie is anything but. When Teddy and Lloyd decide to change their lives, the movie becomes rich with vivid characters and sub plots. It reminded me of that great movie Sideways where you had two friends who were total opposites but who the other absolutely needed to get past their personal demons, whatever the cost. Also, like Sideways, there isn't one weak performance - all of the supporting characters are key to the movie and interesting in their own right (especially Sean McBride in a critical role as an introverted student in Lloyd's class. As a former art teacher myself, this character was absolutely spot on.)
Being Awesome is intelligent, wonderfully acted, skillfully shot, tightly edited and totally lives up to its title. If this movie doesn't get some kind of wider theatrical release, then I weep for the future of independent film. You can check out their page here.