THE STRIKE Review

As written and directed by multi-hyphenate Guillermo Iván The Strike could easily pass for an artist on the brink writing about his experiences as an artist on the brink, but The Strike is strangely able to transcend this typical "write what you know," "art about art" facade by making itself something of a broad comedy that relishes in making its protagonists who are struggling actors, the source of the screwball in the screwball comedy. From appearance alone with its big bold red text proclaiming its title above the characters posed in slapstick positions it would seem The Strike is an amateur attempt to capitalize on the generic comedies Hollywood once spit out in the Spring and Summer so as to make a quick buck on a relatively cheap property that thrived largely on the appeal of its stars and their reputation for bringing the funny. Rarely now do we see comedies made off the name of the star alone (unless you're Melissa McCarthy) and even rarer are the days when it seems original comedies broke out. While The Strike certainly won't buck this trend it is a competently made film that doesn't bring the funny as much as it does the philosophy. It is clear Iván wants to discuss some heavy things-mainly that of the art of acting, why it is necessary in a world gone mad, and the great weight of your skill not necessarily matching your ambition, but that he tries to do this through the guise of jokes makes for an overall off-kilter experience that tells us the heart of the film isn't in the humor, but more so in the life lessons it would like to touch on. This isn't wholly a bad thing. Given that one of the main themes Iván discusses is ambition versus reality it is apt that the film he has made has bigger ambitions within it than what the final product ultimately delivers, but the effort is clear and counts for a lot when it is obvious resources were somewhat limited. That may not sound exactly like a ringing endorsement, but trust me, it is-when one can see the promise in the abilities even if they're not fully realized in what has been produced there is still value in the piece. If nothing else, it points toward the promise to come.

All of that said, The Strike, in classic broad comedy form, delivers a premise so convoluted and absurd it is almost impossible to make it sound like a good idea when describing it. For starters we have Molly (Erin Fogel), Alberto (Guillermo Iván), and Richard (Christopher Márquez) as three struggling actors in New York City each who are desperately searching for their big break. How do we know they're actors? The film opens with the three performing a scene out of something from a 40's-era gangster flick that then begins talking about the Cold War and spies and things of the sort. This scene is played to set up a few things by showing that 1) our three leads aren't the greatest actors in the world despite their hopes and dreams and that 2) Alberto likes to take things into his own hands, deviate from the script, and more or less piss everyone around him off to the point they don't care to work with him anymore. We also learn, once the film pulls out of the scene within the scene, that Richard is the writer of the group and that what we've just seen is one of the worst performances their teacher (Mauricio Bustamante) has seen in his career. Mostly though, this opening scene serves to show us that our three protagonists are going nowhere fast. We are then led into the apartment they all share as the film divulges the side jobs each of them has in order to pay rent while professing their love of acting and performing in their spare time. Molly is a yoga instructor, Alberto is a waiter, and Richard, well, Richard dresses up in different animal costumes for different companies in order to be that fool you see hocking products at potential customers on the corner. The three of them each come to encounter different situations and individuals in their jobs that aid them both personally and professionally with the main objective of the film coming to fruition in the form of a producer (Bronson Pinchot) who attends Molly's yoga class and the trio's attempt to prove themselves worthy for roles in his latest action picture.

Where The Strike really shines though is not in its characters, though they prove more endearing than they initially seem, but in its plotting and the weaving together of its narrative with that of its themes if not always tying in jokes to as great an effect as everything else about the movie would have you believe. The Strike is only occasionally funny with Fogel's performance being the heart of such humor. There are a few stand out bits that concern her character performing stand-up where the material isn't all that great, but where Fogel plays it as a desperate attempt at therapy for her unconventional life and schedule that she currently exists in. The dark stage provides an opportunity to vent and to earn a moment of clarity in her world of chaos and that comes across. Other times Fogel's performance simply displays desperation for a laugh at all, but it ends up more awkward than anything else. As stated, The Strike isn't in it for the laughs, but instead it focuses on the rather simple ideas of both being yourself by finding yourself and breaking down the wall of what you think you should be through the effort of discovering who you really are. In all honesty, it is this well-intentioned nature of the screenplay that ultimately makes the film as appealing as it ends up being. Through his efforts with a homeless man who thinks he is Walt Whitman (Paul Calderon) Richard comes to learn seasoned lessons from a writer who knows how to develop characters past the exterior and down into their soul-something that has been conveniently lacking from Richard's writing. At the restaurant where Alberto works he finds a beautiful co-worker, Lisa (Lara Goldie), who challenges him to drop all the masks he feels it necessary to put on and to just let who he really is breathe for a bit. Naturally, this proves more difficult for Alberto than even he expected given he doesn't really know who he is outside of pretending to be other people. Weaving these internal crisis' into the main goal of infiltrating Pinchot's movie producer Carlo Lombardi the film is able to serve up a satisfactory third act as it feels like the most inspired and unique portion of the entire film.

It's nice things don't work out exactly as we might hope they do for the characters, but more it takes them in a direction they can appreciate and still find outlets to do what they enjoy if not at the level they once aspired to achieve. The film brings each of our three main characters down to earth in a way that doesn't crush their dreams completely, but doesn't answer every prayer either. Like most things in life, it finds a good balance to settle on and Iván very much does the same in pairing what he desired to say through the actions executed in his narrative. This may not have worked perfectly in every aspect, but in enough so as to render The Strike a pleasant diversion for an hour and a half that you just might get more out of than you think will going in.