When “Ishtar,” one of the most expensive comedies ever made and a flop, to boot, came out, Dustin Hoffman defended it by saying this.
“A baby doesn’t know how rich his parents are!”
How much a movie cost can hinder our enjoyment of it, but shouldn’t. And that cuts both ways. We celebrate “El Mariachi,” “Slacker,” “Tangerine” and “The Blair Witch Project” at least in part because well, heck, look what they did without any money.
“From Hollywood to Rose” is an occasionally amusing LA bus trip comedy that strains and strains to achieve “charming.” Stock characters with an occasional twist, a daft heroine who could pass for shopping cart lady crazy, it upends a couple of expectations and finds a couple of good laughs.
Ignore the back story that the filmmakers made this micro-budget movie in the home of the movies for less than $200,000 and the city bus-bound, stagey (lots of characters enter the story, do monologues, and exit) laugher wouldn’t warrant much more than a passing thought, or a “Let’s try this out” gander on Netflix.
I mean, aside from an implicit slap at Hollywood for throwing cash at plenty of comedies that cost 500 to 1,000 times more than this, most of which are no funnier, dwelling on its cost gets it graded on the curve. And the script, characters and players who perform it often aren’t up to snuff.
Eve Annenberg (“Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish”) is our unnamed heroine, stumbling to a Hollywood Blvd. bus stop in the middle of the night in a cheap wedding dress, cats-eye glasses and a lot of makeup that’s run down her face thanks to tears. During a night-long odyssey, she flees that part of town for another, making her way home or wherever else her not-thinking-straight impulses send her.
At first she doesn’t speak, and even after she starts blabbing, she’s mainly reacting to those she meets, an improbably odd cross-section of Late Night La La Land. The loud, indiscreet coed chattering and over-sharing on her cell phone, the businessman (or so dressed) out for a middle-of-the-night commute, the tattooed, muscle-bound biker, the mouthy, rude Chinese woman who gets her back up when her pidgin English gives her away as an immigrant (Chia Chen), bickering drag queens and two chivalrous nerds (Bradley Herman, Maxx Maulion), most of them start weirdly one-sided chats with her.
The polite ones try to avoid prying.
“Excuse me, miss. Did you ever see ‘The Graduate?'”
Yeah, she’s running away from her own wedding. Or could be. And opening her mouth and her purse (with a “fish” night light in it) suggests she’s touched in the head. Mostly though, the strangers sound her out by making a quick sketch of their own story, hopes, etc.
A woman her age over-shares about her own failed marriage, the muscle-bound biker comforts her choice of dresses and shockingly, knows the crinkly fabric tulle when he sees it. A strung-out bus driver launches into a monologue that sounds like something out of every bad “readers theater” performance you’ve ever heard.
“Y’know what I wanted to do when I was a kid?”
Our runaway bride’s sanity is reassured by the nerds, two bemused observers of the passing human comedy who bicker endlessly about “Batman” and “Blade Runner,” and their relative merits.
“First of all, you’re an IDIOT. Second, ‘Batman’s’ not a cartoon, he’s a SUPER hero!”
The bride knows “Blade Runner,” although her rambling recollection of her relationship to it does nothing to advocate her sanity. She knows Bruce Lee movies, too.
There’s a wildly improbable encounter or two with others from her wedding party, missed buses, eye rolls from some passengers, cringes from others and a stop-off for a food fight.
Through it all, the runaway bride’s makeup miraculously renews itself, the dress endures unspeakable indignities and you learn to appreciate the randomness of the public transportation set.
Like the “real” shopping cart homeless lady who knows where the only all-night yogurt place is, the nerds who know every all-night burrito stand in their corner of LA, and that flash-back suffering “tulle” expert, who looks like Dave Bautista and sounds like Sean Hayes .
Co-directors Liz Graham and Matt Jacobs (he wrote it, too) never let us fear for anybody’s safety, and never for one second let us doubt that the bride will change her mind about getting home to Culver City and instead go where any self-respecting Angelino would end her crosstown bus odyssey — to the beach.
I appreciated its randomness, the underlying sweetness, even if too many of the monologues were more grating than charming. And the novel setting, while it doesn’t show us as much of the city as we’ve never seen (I’ve ridden the bus along these routes a few times) on screen, does count for something.
But “From Hollywood to Rose” doesn’t amount to much more than maybe four good laughs, a few grins and a lot of eye-rolls. And how little it cost doesn’t figure into it.
MPAA Rating: unrated, with profanity.
Cast: Eve Annenberg, Bradley Herman, Maxx Maulion, Chia Chen
Running Time: 1:24