Deliberate aimlessness is the narrative goal of “Sollers Point,” an intimate, gritty and meandering character study built around a charismatic turn by leading man McCaul Lombardi.
The film follows his character, Keith, through a month or so of trying to get his life back on track after a stint in stir, followed by months of house arrest.
The mild-mannered (so we think) ex-con is back under the same roof as his old man (Jim Belushi) because his ex (Zazie Beetz) is done with him. And she’s not giving his dog back.
The hood rats he used to run with (Kazy Tauginas, Tom Guiry) are “here for you, dog.” But he doesn’t want that, and that’s not what they want to hear.
So he’s got to get a fresh hustle on, round up some scrap metal to sell, borrow a truck to haul that scrap, check in with his old drug dealer/pal (Brieyon Bell-El) to see if he can get back into distributing. Which he does, even though everybody short-changes him and one middle-aged junkie’s sob story (Alyssa Bresnahan, terrific) ought to be enough to change his mind.
Grandma “Ladybug” (Lynn Cohen) and big sister Kate (Marin Ireland) are here for moral support.
Exes and might-be-future-exes abound, run-ins with the gang show Keith’s temper. And the cute old houses and neon underbelly of working class Baltimore are put on display. Baltimore’s favorite son, John Waters and TV’s “The Wire” have nothing on “Sollers” writer-director Matthew Porterfield (“I Used to be Darker”) in the sunny but sordidly scenic Baltimore department.
Periodic fights with the one gang member (Guiry) who won’t let it go mean that eventually, Keith will have to go to the kingpin, named “Mom” (Michael Rogers) to beg for a little relief. Porterfield’s instincts fail him here, because if there’s one thing the movies don’t need more of, it’s nitwit philosopher gang leaders.
“Deeds and actions are a mirror,” is the most coherent thing Mom says in a long lecture that brings the film to a full stop. A movie this slow doesn’t need that.
But for all the set-piece scenes, the empty (in broad daylight) streets and theatrical quality of Keith’s cross-city odyssey, Porterfield gives us characters we believe (generally) and situations that look lived-in. An old man’s poker game may be a movie cliche, but keeping a blown line in the final cut lends authenticity to the patter. Real people stumble over their words.
Lombardi, yes he’s descended from the legendary football coach, holds the screen with ease and carries the picture along on Keith’s travels. He has the advantage of looking like a punk, one with movie-star eyes. He keeps Keith’s secrets and barely hints at the problems that ran him afoul of the law before it’s too late, we’ve already emotionally invested in his redemption.
The supporting ladies — Beetz and Bresnahan, Cohen, Everleigh Brenner and Imani Hakim (Flings?) and Maya Martinez (another possible fling) are interesting enough to warrant more scenes and a more central place in the plot.
But again, “Sollers Point” isn’t really about the plot, or advancing it. It’s all about the place, the sorts of people in it and the good and bad support systems that could sink or swim our hero. Thanks to Lombardi, we stick around for the answer.
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, drug content, and some sexual material
Cast: McCaul Lombardi, Jim Belushi, Zazi Beetz, Imani Hakim, Alyssa Bresnahan, Tom Guiry
Credits:Written and directed by Matthew Porterfield. An Oscilloscope Labs release.
Running time: 1:42