Review by Mark Schwab
April 7th, 2019
Digging into the ugly underbelly of Hollywood hiding beneath its glamour has been a genre unto itself almost since movies began down there. Taking on such a well-worn, cliche'd storyline takes some creativity to breath fresh life into it and I have to salute writer/director/editor/star William Wayne for attempting something truly different with his debut feature LOST ANGELAS even though I think in the end it's a bit of a missed opportunity.
Wayne stars as Jake, a wannabe screenwriter desperate to get into the business who becomes inspired after meeting the beautiful Angela Rose (Korrina Rico). After writing "the perfect script" for her to star in, he nudges his toes into the Hollywood door by way of a typical dirtbag producer/director named Walt Warshaw (Jon Jacobs). Yes, it takes murder and blackmail for Walt to agree to make Jake's script into a movie but no one said the movie business was easy, right? After the movie gets made (supposedly it's brilliant and a critic's darling but audiences are avoiding it), a publicity stunt is hatched where lead actress Angela will pretend to disappear and raise the public interest level in the film which works great until Angela actually goes missing. That's when her mafia-connected father gets involved and starts putting the screws to Jake to tell him where she is.
What I've just described is a very broad overview of a complex plot that goes into a ton of different directions; there's schizophrenia, flashbacks, romantic double-crosses, family secrets, more murders, tons of weird supporting characters and the teasing idea that all of this is just one big hallucinatory mental breakdown inside one character's mind. It's a lot to take in over 80 scant minutes and for me, the techniques on display overwhelmed the story and atmosphere. There is so much cross-cutting, mirror imaging and timeline flips to tie up every plot thread (to its credit, I'm pretty sure they all do get tied up) that the movie never gives the audience a chance to just breathe with it and get absorbed in the story or the intriguing mystery/thriller world it's trying to create. It looks like a Neo-noir, hard-boiled thriller at times but it's nearly impossible to get caught up in the machinations - every edit feels like it's about 2 seconds long before it gets back to deliberately trying to disorient you so no real tension got built for me.
This made it difficult to get emotionally involved in the Jake and Angela characters. Although Wayne and Rico are solid performers with potentially complex quirks and motivations, they struggle to register beyond just looking good on screen since their scenes are cut in such a rapid-fire manner. Jon Jacobs, though, as Walt Warshaw expertly manages to create and embody a truly loathsome pile of sleaze that would fit right in on a David Lynch movie.
I think a lot of your enjoyment of LOST ANGELAS will depend on how you respond to Wayne's execution of it. My take on it is admittedly subjective since I simply became worn-out by the constant flash and mirror cuts but I can see other audiences enjoying Wayne's dizzying, vertigo-style approach. Ana Maria Manso's cinematography is strong, the production values are excellent and the movie is never boring. There's no question that William Wayne has a specific and ambitious vision with LOST ANGLEAS and he executes it energetically and thoroughly. There is talent here. However, I ended up respecting and admiring Wayne's effort and attempt more than getting lost (in a good way) into his film's story.