Indie Film Focus: Mark Lewis’ “Wild Girl Waltz” (2012)
Tara (Samantha Steinmetz) and Angie (Christina Shipp) take some “goofy pills” to escape the boredom of their small town existence. Brian (Jared Stern) is stuck baby-sitting them until they come down from their righteous high. Comedic mayhem ensues.
Besides the “comedic mayhem” evident in the film’s trailer, the presence of Kim Gordon — who did a great job playing an aggressive, ambitious district attorney in Mark Ashton Lund’s Justice Is Mind (see my review) — in a cameo role convinced me to review Wild Girl Waltz (2012). In exchange for a fair and honest review, indie writer/director Mark Lewis granted me access to a streaming screener copy of the movie. I found that — like Lund’s production — Lewis’ film (also feature-length) is a good example of what indie filmmaking can produce, in this case on a small budget. Although the trailer makes it look like a screwball comedy, Wild Girl Waltz is actually a dramedy, as it uses comedy — often hilarious and at times over-the-top — to tell the dramatic story of two women and one man who are pushing 30 years old and feeling it in both good and bad ways.
The film’s opening sequence has some nice footage that establishes the picturesque rural nature of the New Hampshire area where the three main characters live. In the first scene, a spiteful young redneck in a passing pickup truck throws a milkshake on and a choice insult at Angie (Shipp), who is walking along the side of the road. She calls Tara (Steinmetz), who comes to pick her up, then invites her over to the house she shares with her boyfriend, Brian (Stern). There she offers her a choice between two pills (obviously not the prescription variety, and also not red and blue pills). Tara’s pill turns out to be Ecstasy, while Angie’s is some other hallucinogenic drug. Just as they start getting silly, Brian arrives home and realizes that he’s going to have to “babysit” the pair until they come down from their highs. However, they convince him to take them to a local bar that is run by a mutual friend. The remainder of the film follows the three as they have a local weekend-day adventure. Kim Gordon appears as a friend of Tara’s mother. The pie that she gives Tara to deliver to her mother ends up being the prop for one of the funnier scenes in the film.
Despite the laughs, this is a film about the joys and frustrations of the post-college years of early adulthood. Tara and Angie take the “goofy pills” out of a need to escape from their lives. Despite his machismo, Brian clearly cares about both of them and is really in love with Tara. All three are college graduates who have returned to their rural hometown to join the 9-5 grind of the work world. They’re having to adjust to the fact that adult life isn’t as exciting as the version that they expected. Moreover, they can’t go back to the glory days of high school, either. What they learn, however, is that both wild girls and boys can “get by with a little help from their friends.”