Sunday, January 1, 2017

Portable Storage - a film review

Portable Storage is a film conceived, written and directed by an independent filmmaker, my friend Sam Burbank.  He’s more than a friend, actually, more of a member of my extended chosen family.  Since finishing the project some years ago, he has been struggling to get broader distribution for his creation, and it has been an uphill climb.  It has just become available for rent or purchase on iTunes and can be seen for free if you have Amazon Prime.  Otherwise, for a small fee.  It will also be available soon on Hulu. 

I’ve given you reasons why I cannot do an objective review.  But let me try to get as close as I can.

Portable Storage is a goof-ball comedy.  I’ve seen it three times now, and it is growing on me.  The first time I saw it, it smacked of amateurism, although that could just as easily have been my projection and not anything inherent in the film itself.  The second time I saw it, I began to appreciate how witty it was, and I was able to move a bit beyond spotting people I know in the film and recognize the work that went into it.  Last night, I watched it for the third time, with a friend, who shared my view that this is something you can recommend to your friends with confidence.  He was the one who came up with "goof-ball."

That’s not a negative, by the way.  I love the absurd.  Not crazy about zany (this is not really zany) and campy (this is not campy) does not ring my bells much either.  Portable Storage is on the clever side of goofy, not the silly side.  There are few if any belly-laughs, but lots of bits that bring a smile to your face. And more than a few chuckles.

It’s a plot-driven story of an out-of-work computer gamer named Don (Todd Brotze), entrusted with his grandmother’s bowling ball, which he puts in storage with a rip-off storage company.  The crooks come to your house, pile everything into a locker and take it to the desert in Nevada, because land is cheaper than in urban California.  Problem is, the land in Nevada turns out to be an off limits government site and when our hero and his buddy Hamad (Nicholas Massouh) decide to chase it down, they find it all but inaccessible.  I won’t reveal more, other than the fact that they team up with a delightful list of offbeat characters in the same boat, including a couple of over-the-hill lushes, as well as an 11-year-old computer whiz who would save the day if his mother didn’t force him to wash the dishes.  I urge you to rent the film and take it from there without spoilers.

Likable characters.  Pretty good acting.  Some lovely shots of the moon and an homage to ET.  And several other details that help to explain, I think, why the film gets better with each viewing.  Because computers figure large in the lives of the characters and the plot line, the technology is now dated and the telephones are clunky.  But that's a minor issue, outweighed by the witty unspoken social commentary behind the bullying by anti-immigrant thugs who can’t tell Hamad the Lebanese from a Mexican and aren't swift enough to figure out he is actually a right-wing patriot.  For icing on the cake, the thugs come loaded down with homoerotic neuroticisms.

Goes well with popcorn, in my experience.  And there's something to be said for a movie which gains something with each viewing.


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