Los Feliz 3 Cinemas in Los Angeles opened its doors to the premiere screening of San Francisco director Richard Bosner’s “Falling Uphill” on May 1. The film is as much a study of individuality as it is a romantic comedy, and as much an ode to San Francisco as it is a call to travel, to explore and to live life to its fullest.
“Falling Uphill” is an official selection of the first annual Los Angeles United Film Festival. The obvious love that went into the production of the film was witnessed with the gaggle of fans, family and friends who filled the theater, despite the seven-hour drive for those from the Bay.
Richard Bosner has been working in San Francisco’s indie film industry for years, producing features and shorts. Working with friend and co-producer, Barret Hacia, Bosner created his newest movie with the help of many of his past San Francisco associates’ surprisingly cozy arts scene.
The “arts scene,” and all of the disenchantment that comes along with it, is in fact a major thread in “Falling Uphill.” The film opens on Robert, played by Ari Kanamori, a young man from the East Coast who traveled to San Francisco in hopes of finding love and creating art.
However, Robert hasn’t done much of either, only having produced a few paintings and having fallen for his (sadly unavailable) roommate-turned-best friend, Jenny, played by Jena Hunt (who, in full disclosure, is my sister).
Robert, bent on leaving San Francisco and all of its disappointments, is thrown a goodbye party, where he finally kisses Jenny as they languidly brandish their clove cigarettes and stand looking over the city lights from their Sunset District rooftop.
But Jenny declares the kiss a mistake.Unsatisfied with working as a princess in children’s birthday parties and pursuing a writing career, Jenny half-heartedly clings to her upwardly mobile boyfriend, whose heart, at least, is in the right place.
Robert ultimately meets the questionably psychotic but charming Sara (played by Venus Swimwear bombshell Jessiqa Pace) who brings him around the city, simultaneously annoying him with her eccentricities and inspiring him with her unexpected wisdom and love for discovery. In a musky book shop, she gives Robert Tropic of Cancer and lauds the protagonist’s adventurous spirit. Meanwhile, Jenny struggles to figure out her feelings for Robert in the midst of her seemingly happy relationship, adding up to a story that is a dramatic, interesting and beautiful mess.
In fact, everyone involved seems to be a beautiful mess. The director, producer and actors alike testified that the film is for the newest “Lost Generation,” the current group of 20-somethings who have all of the ambition but none of the direction required to fluidly enter the real world. The film speaks to this barren land between immaturity and jadedness with its fresh, “mumblecore” aesthetic (a low-budget, intimate and naturalistic style that is part of many indie American films). In fact, shooting only took around 16 days, and the actors’ dialogue in the original 90-page script eventually became well-executed improvisation.
“In the rehearsal process, we would use our behind-the-scenes ‘method acting homework’ to improvise scenes,” Kanamori said. “Even many [scenes] that weren’t meant to be in the movie.”
Method acting not only familiarizes actors with their characters, but it also helps characters interact with each other.
“The style of filmmaking is very intimate,” actress Jena Hunt said. “You can’t help but get comfortable around everyone.”
“Especially when we hadn’t slept for days,” Kanamori added.
The comfort comes across in the film. The two actors playing the befuddled lovers Rob and Jenny also met and fell in love on set. Together, they speak of the accuracy with which “Falling Uphill” portrays the feelings of 20-somethings stuck in almost every kind of social and personal rut.
“I left my job at an animal rights organization and was gigging around in an effort to make my life creative,” Hunt said, explaining the connection she felt with Jenny’s character. “So when Rick called me up and said he had a film about people in San Francisco in their ‘quarter-life crisis’ phases, it seemed appropriate!”
“All the different characters are doing the best they can, given their circumstances, like anyone … the challenge of our generation is the up-and-down,” Kanamori said, agreeing with Hunt. “There are times we identify with free-spiritedness and times we make decisions to ground ourselves in society’s standards for day-to-day survival.”
“Our generation especially has a less clear path to matriculate into what we thought adulthood would be,” Hunt added.
Whether you’re a disconcertingly attractive and tragically befuddled 20-something in San Francisco, or a student trying to decide your major in Santa Barbara, LA or who-knows-where, “Falling Uphill” certainly speaks to an element of isolation and aimlessness inherent in a generation paradoxically inspired by the world around them and jaded by the empty promises of the late ‘90s economic boom.
Of course, this is all wrapped into a comedic, indie romance, reminiscent of “He’s Just Not That Into You” and “(500) Days of Summer,” with hints of Woody Allen’s “Husbands and Wives” and an unabashed love for everything San Francisco. Currently playing at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival and set to continue in the festival circuit, this small Kickstarter.com-funded movie about small people with big dreams may be doing some big things in the near future.