Movie Review: Bowie Buff Ann Dowd ponders the “Speed of Life”

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On the day David Bowie died, June and Edward got into a fight.

She’d been a big Bowie fan since childhood, painting her face up Aladdin Sane style as a child.

And now, in 2016, her partner Edward is telling jokes.

“Man, it’s hard to make a joke about cancer…Hey, what’s David Bowie do after going to the gym?”

“It’s like a light has gone out, and you don’t even SEE it!” she gripes.

June (Allison Tolman of “Krampus” and “The Gift”) flies into a “take stock” rage, shouting that she wants “a partner who” understands “WHY he was so important,” some guy capable of “a grand gesture.”

Edward (Ray Santiago)? He’s got nothing. And then “POOF,” he vanishes.

“Speed of Life” is a thin little sci-fi romance that leans rather heavily on the whole “inspired by David Bowie” hook in its plot and title (a Bowie song). Having no rights to music or images, writer-director Liz Manashil’s 75 minute movie doesn’t even get into what made Bowie so special to her, no quoted lyrics — just a mention of his “alien” image and “out there” persona.

And then, with a poof, it’s debate-over. Because Edward is gone.

Fortunately, the story then moves into the reliable hands of Ann Dowd (“American Animals,” “Compliance”) and Jeff Perry (“Lizzie,” “The Grifters”) and its heartfelt intentions become clearer.

It’s 2040 now, and June is days-shy of age 60. Her Big Brother “Program” smart home is reminding her of mandatory retirement, mandatory relocation to a Newton Company government-licensed retirement community. Neighbor Sam isn’t nuts about it either, but June is insistent.

“Edward could come back!”

And then he does, albeit confused at what’s going on.

“Where’s June? Where’s all my stuff?”

“Speed of Life” then takes a stab at what connects people “for life,” the ardor that the years cannot dim and the “taking stock” one does decades after losing that Great Love to the void, devoting years to pining for him, and then having him return.

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Manashil is more interested in tenderness than laughs, and there’s a little of that, just not enough to put the picture over.

A parallel story involves Sam’s listless daughter (Vella Lovell), at a loss for what “The Program” will find for her to do for a job, lonely until she meets her downwardly-mobile neighbor (Sean Wright).

There’s probably an intended theme spun from Bowie that the picture doesn’t quite get across, about souls and love defying time, physical differences and physical appearances.

“The guy had a weird eye and messed up teeth” and still became a sex symbol and romantic ideal, so that’s something.  Perhaps the lyrics to “Speed of Life” are the clue.

“I was running at the speed of life
Through morning’s thoughts and fantasies
Then I saw your eyes at the cross fades
Secret secrets never seen
Secret secrets ever green.”

But I can’t say I got a lot out of “Speed of Life” — just a dystopian future where most choices have been removed from the randomness (and premature death in poverty) of life. Dowd’s always interesting, and Perry makes a nice foil for her.

There just isn’t enough to this script to make the Bowie premise of the picture a promise the movie can keep.

1half-star

MPAA Rating: Unrated, sexual situations

Cast: Ann Dowd, Jeff Perry, Ray Santiago, Allison Tolman and Vella Lovell

Credits: Written and directed by Liz Manashil. A Giant Pictures release.

Running time: 1:16

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