March 30th, 2009 5:33 pm | by Adrienne So News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

Movie Review: Coming Up Easy

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Coming Up Easy, the first feature film by local filmmaker Rebecca A. Rodriguez, debuted in 2004 and won a few awards, including Best Feature Film at the Reel Women International Film Festival in 2005. As any indie filmmaker knows, awards do not necessarily mean that a film does not suck. Coming Up Easy, whose title is a reference to bulimia, is saved from the land of suck by two factors. One factor is the fantastic acting of Anya Profumo as heroine Lily Garcia. The other factor is the plain, painful realism of most of the script's dialogue.

Lily is a woman with a abusive past, who has managed to eke out a life for herself in Portland, Oregon. She works as a cashier in a thrift store. She is mildly bulimic. Her only friend is Alfred, the Magical Homeless Black Person, whom she regularly meets in the Title Wave Bookstore so that they can quote cryptic one-line verses at each other. Her long-suffering boyfriend, Michael, has a receding hairline. But her fragile contentment is shattered by the arrival of her sister Denice (Pam Mahon), who has been evicted from her house in Sacramento, California. Denice drives up from California with her abusive, drug-dealing husband Kyle (David A. Greene) and their passel of pierced, feral children.

If you are at all well-adjusted, you will find yourself screaming "Why, why, why??!!" throughout this film. Lily has a gun that she constantly fantasizes about using, if only to force Kyle to leave the house. Instead, she passively watches Kyle deal drugs, leave needles on the counter, and, oh, beat the crap out of her sister. She repays Michael for his constant, loving support by screaming at him when he gets peanut butter on her spoon. You can do better, Michael! Why, why, why??!!

You know that a movie is full of messed-up characters when the only person who makes a lick of sense is Denice and Lily's chain-smoking, soap-watching Dragon Lady of a mom (Meg Foster). She urges Denice to leave her husband and tells Lily to stop puking, and for this advice Lily moans that Mom is totally insane. She may be, but not more so than anyone else.

Still, Anya Profumo as Lily exudes a lush, knowing world-weariness that transcends the lunacy of her actions. And for all its drama, the actors have no problem inhabiting the script. In one scene, Kyle has called the cops on himself. As Denice gasps, between laughter, "He's a f*cking idiot!", we, and Lily, realize the real joke: She is staying with this idiot. It's only when Rodriguez attempts to devolve into poetry that the dialogue falls flat. "When I try to talk to her, her head falls in her hands. Like the head of a broken flower," Lily confides in Alfred. Do elderly black people ever have other things to do than nod sagely while young white folks decompress? Who knows?

One reason indie films are appealing is because they looks and feels like real life. Coming Up Easy was made for a half-million, with actors, sets and dialogue that look and sound like places we've been. Granted, you would hope that no one you knew had been through abuse, bulimia, and more abuse. But on the plus side, if you need a wake-up call to figure out that hey, your life isn't so bad, you now know where to go.

Coming Up Easy opened at Living Room Theaters (341 SW 10th Ave) on March 27. Showtimes available at
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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