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Five Star Day (A Movie Review)

Five Star Day

Five Star Day

5 STAR DAY (2010)

Starring Cam Gigandet, Jena Malone, Brooklyn Sudano, Max Hartman, Julianna Guill, Will Yun Lee, Nick Chinlund, Tad Hilgenbrink, Richard Riehle, Mark Boone Junior, Patricia Belcher, Chris J. Johnson, Yvette Freeman, Cesar Garcia and Bruno Alexander.

Screenplay by Danny Buday.

Directed by Danny Buday.

Distributed by Breaking Glass Pictures.  97 minutes.  Not Rated.

5 Star Day expends a whole lot of energy, time and imagination trying to make the not-exactly earth shattering revelation that the horoscopes in the daily newspaper are often wrong.

Because the film spends so much effort trying to prove a point that the great majority of us already took for granted, the valid ideas and clever story concept are buried under a great load of disinterest.  Tell us something we don’t know.

Early on in the film’s narration, the lead character tells us “According to Fox News, 29% of Americans say that they believe in astrology, even though the scientific community still classifies astrology as superstition and not an actual form of science.  Yet, the population keeps believing.”  This statement has two problems that resonate throughout the film: 1) that means that 71% of people do not believe, severely limiting the film’s scope and 2) that statistic was from the Fox “News” Channel, so it was undoubtedly completely wrong, or maybe even just made up, anyway.

As the film starts, Jake Gibson (Cam Gigandet) is having the kind of bad day that only people in really bad movies have.  On his birthday, after reading a horoscope saying that the stars were in his corner, he is fired from his job, goes home and finds his girlfriend (Julianna Guill) screwing another guy, has a plumbing emergency, loses his apartment and has his treasured vintage sports car stolen.  (Fate may have even thrown some more shit at the guy, I don’t recall…)

Because his (now) ex was a huge believer in astrology (as we see in flashback), Jake decides to disprove the whole belief system as a giant fuck you to her.

Spite.  Now that is an idea I can get behind.

He actually has a majorly cool idea – by far the cleverest part of the movie.  Horoscopes are figured out due to the time, date and location of birth, so he decides to find out who was born in the same hospital ward and at the same day and time as he was.  He wants write a presentation in which he finds out if any of them had the five-star day that the newspaper column had promised.

He looks on the internet to find out that there were four babies, himself included, who were born at nearly the exact same time.  What’s more, he is able to find current full, married names and addresses of each of these now-grown children.  (Wow, what website was all this info on?  Talk about transparency!)

Therefore, despite the fact that he is in college at University of California-Berkeley, he flies back home to Chicago (with side trips to Atlantic City and New York) to collect his data.

All of this for a term paper?  Hasn’t the guy ever heard of a telephone or email?

Then he starts tracking the people down and tries to get to know them and find out how their lives are similar or different than his own.  Problem is, Jake, with his smirking nonchalance and unwillingness to explain himself, initially scares off each of his potential subjects.

Of course, the fact that people treat the guy like a loon is 100% his fault.  Instead of, you know, telling the people what he is trying to do with his paper – which actually makes for a pretty intriguing excuse – he tries to lie and charm his way into their lives before finally breaking down and just fessing up as to his motivation.

He ends up meeting a pretty single mother (Jena Malone) who is fighting for custody of her daughter, a compassionate inner city social worker (Brooklyn Sudano, who is disco diva Donna Summer’s daughter) and a casino lounge singer on a bender (Max Hartman).

As Jake crosses America looking for temporal clarity that simply doesn’t exist, he gets more and more involved in his counterparts’ lives – sharing brief (but, oh so meaningful… or so the film would like you to believe) experiences with others which help him to define himself.

It’s nice in theory, but I’m not sure I buy it.  Jake sort of is there when things happen, but it does not appear that he particularly learns from them or even overly experiences them.

In a late plot twist, he travels to New York City to right a wrong done to one of his new friends – in the process missing his plane home and his opportunity to present his thesis – and when he gets to New York, he does nothing… because, he reasons, it is not his place to intervene.

Well if that is the case, then what the hell is he doing there in the first place?  When he is able – by sheer (and somewhat unlikely) happenstance – to partially right that wrong by retrieving a stolen piece of jewelry, he does just the minimum, leaving behind money that was stolen at the same time and would be needed by the victim.  However, the film wants us to applaud the fact that he did the least amount he could to help a near stranger.  Nice.

Part of the problem is our lead.  I don’t know if it is the way the character is written or Gigandet’s acting, but Jake comes off as a smug, self-absorbed asshole throughout most of the film.  It is a shame, because he is working with some nuanced actresses in Malone, Sudano and Guill, all of whom are somewhat marooned in their scenes with him.

By the time the film downshifts back into a rather undercooked romantic ending, its viewpoints on fate and astrology seem hopelessly muddled.  Writer/director Danny Buday does not seem to be sure what exactly he is trying to get across with his story – and if he doesn’t know how can the audience possibly work it out?

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2011 All rights reserved. Posted: November 1, 2011.

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