The Strip Directed by: Jameel Khan
Starring Dave Foley, Jenny Wade, Rodney Scott, Billy Aaron Brown, Federico Dordei, Cory Christmas, Noureen DeWulf, Chelcie Ross
Release Date: December 4, 2009 (limited)
The Strip is a new independent film from Bata Films that tells the story of a group of small-town retail store workers trying to find themselves. It’s a story that we’ve seen before, but that works on many different levels, as witnessed in movies like Clerks, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and Waiting. What differentiates it from movies like that is its open subtlety. The movie doesn’t rush anywhere or get too out of hand, and though hilarious in the movies mentioned, it avoids the constant swearing and adult themes as much as possible in an attempt to thrive on being what it is: just a simple tale of a few lives looking to rediscover their true paths.
The Strip refers to a strip mall where a little store called Electri-City is located. It’s a blatant Radio Shack ripoff, and sells many generic brand products that no one has ever heard of, but because people love cheap crap, they do have customers…sometimes. This branch is run by the manager, Glenn (Dave Foley). He obviously has the passion and the drive, but you can tell he’s in a bit of a mid-life crisis, though he’d never admit it. He makes an effort in raising sales numbers by trying trust exercises with his team, such as all holding hands and trying to untie themselves. Unfortunately, these exercises aren’t completely successful due to the fact that his staff is a grab bag of varying personalities that don’t exactly mesh together well.
[Click over to read more and to see a trailer for The Strip.]
Among the team members: Rick (Cory Christmas), the in-your-face former high school athlete who always wins the monthly sales contest due to his intimidating presence. He’s a simple mind with dreams of becoming a superstar actor some day. Jeff (Billy Aaron Brown), the slacker who wanders aimlessly through life and doesn’t do much of anything unless its in his own best interest or for his own entertainment. Avi (Federico Dordei), an immigrant who’s trying to achieve the American dream of a great job and a family. When he discovers that his arranged soon-to-be wife (Noureen DeWulf) is far more beautiful than he can handle, he begins panicking about how he can make her happy. And lastly: Kyle (Rodney Scott), the son of the owner of the Electri-City franchise, who is being groomed to eventually be running two stores by the time he turns 30, which eventually leads to him replacing Glenn, who gets demoted to sales.
As you can plainly tell, this is a character study if I’ve ever seen one. There’s not even really a tight storyline to the movie, but more of a collection of occurrences in this group of lives that we get to watch in on for a short period, and I can say honestly: it works well. I enjoyed all of the characters — even the crazy ones — and it’s nice to enjoy a simple film that doesn’t try to be more than it has to be. I found myself laughing quite a lot at the situational humor that was created through these lackluster existences just moving from one day to the next. While everyone is dealing with their own lives, they’re also a messed up little dysfunctional family who try to look out for each other’s best interests. The movie has a lot of heart at its core, but with a lot of big laughs mixed in evenly, that’s a solid recipe. For example — there’s a scene where Rick — who is obviously the worst actor ever to live — is practicing for an acting job as a British character that had me laughing fairly hard. Christmas did a great job portraying that guy we all went to school with who strives to be everything and will likely always be nothing. Sad, but entertaining indeed.
Within Kyle’s story is one of my favorite elements in the movies. Kyle has come to accept his fate as an Electri-City manager who will be given all he needs to live a boring life of mediocrity…until he meets Melissa (Jenny Wade). Melissa is a wonderful character; she’s a free spirit who doesn’t bite into those things in life that everyone thinks they just have to do. She’s always open and honest and cares only about the smile on her face as opposed to the size of her house, car, or bank account. Wade (who went on to be the only demon we’ll ever fall in love with on TV’s Reaper) does great things bringing life to the role and making everyone fall for her instantly. This is where I feel the majority of the movie’s heart comes from — she added an undeniable glow to the whole story.
The other element of the movie that really stood out to me was Glenn. Dave Foley is best known from his work on The Kids in the Hall and News Radio, but he does a great job in this low-profile production. He reminds us how depressing middle age can look and feel, but they also makes sure to show that it’s not always that bad. He has a beautiful wife and a nice home; his job isn’t corporate cake-walking, but he loves what he does. As with many lives though, even the good ones can drive you to do stupid things, and Glenn finds himself noticeably attracted to the new manager of Sheila’s Fabrics, and even moving to talk to her. Nothing more comes of it, but in what appears to be vengeful retail store karma, Glenn finds out in one day that he’s being demoted and that his wife slept with one of his employees. He doesn’t handle it all very well, but he does learn some things from it all. The reason this part played so well for me is because it really reminded me of Foley’s News Radio character, but to a much lesser extreme. It was almost as if he had been fired from the radio gig, and was now doing what he had to do as a middle-aged Radio Shack ripoff manager. That character relativity added a secret layer of fun to the overall picture.
Sometimes it’s difficult for me to be won over by indie films, but The Strip has you laughing right off the bat (with a firm Rick sales pitch), and carries you along comfortably from then on, and that’s how it won me over. It’s also clear that this movie bears a lot of similarities to other big blockbuster movies we’ve seen, but it’s definitely its own film, and that’s something to keep in mind. Just because it’s a small movie with a small budget doesn’t mean it needs to be panned automatically. This is a movie to give a fair chance to.
You may or may not have a chance to see the film when it is being released in limited theaters on December 4, and I can’t say when it will be more widely available to be seen, but it’s certainly worth keeping an eye open for in the future. You can head HERE to check out the locations it is playing in the eleven cities it is being released in, and stay tuned for expanded locations.
For those of you who live this life, you’re sure to relate to many of the situations you’ll see and have a smile on your face by the end. The Strip might even just surprise you and inspire you to do more, see more, and live the life that you want to live. Those are the kinds of movies that are surely worth your time.