Almost Paris: Domenica Cameron-Scorsese's Directorial Debut
In the midst of a real estate crisis and economic recession, Max returns home after a successful stint in the finance world to his middle class family, all of them struggling with the trials of everyday life; burnt dinners, paying for daycare, and how often to run the dishwasher.
Max is surprised to encounter some frustration and bitterness from both his friends and his family. They are glad to see him, but, are acutely aware of his apparent superiority, and distrustful of his career as one of the guys that helped ‘ruin America.'
Max decides to stick around in an effort to prove to them (and himself) that he is not, in fact, an asshole. It takes him a while to realize he may have been wrong about that, and other things, like his guilt.
The first feature film directed by Domenica Cameron-Scorsese, starring Wally Marzano-Lesnevich, Abigail Hawk, & Michael Sorvino is a true delight and a quality snapshot of modern life that deserves your attention.
The people that Max tries to reconnect with all represent the average American life – a life that Max seems to think he is too good for. His old high school buddy Mikey is man divorced with a teenage daughter and in love with the past; wistfully clinging to the 90s like they were the glory days and baffled by how the world and his life have changed. He is the most direct comparison to how Max’s life could have turned out if he hadn’t been on the other economic side of things.
After running into another former classmate, Ellie, Max repeatedly tries to ask her out but is turned down for reasons he cannot fathom. Of course, Ellie likes Max against her better judgment, which tells her that he is all ego. Still, she has no interest in being a post high school conquest for him to cross off his rather short list of regrets.
At home, Max has to be aware and accountable for his behavior around his niece, something he is not used to. This serves as elegant symbolism for his inability to take responsibility for anything else. The conversation he has with his brother about getting a ‘real job’ reveals the depth of his condescension, towards not only his brother but also his whole family’s way of life. Max is so out of touch with the everyday realities that he actually thinks he deserves all the success he’s had. He has no idea how much of it was pure luck, or how much was him ripping off people like his brother.
Adam LeFevre’s performance as Max’s father Richard is one of the best parts about the film. You feel for him so completely; as a father, disappointed in his son, and as a husband, who must face the fact that he cannot afford to treat his wife to the trip he’s been promising her. Max’s parents are simple people with simple dreams they have worked hard for, but will never happen due to the systemic failures outside their control. What’s worse is that their son was a part of that failure. Even when Max tries to help by sending them to Paris, he does further damage by robbing his father of being the one to give that gift.
Necessary and comedic relief comes in the form of Ricky, another old time acquaintance that now runs the local bank. His utter enthusiasm for his hometown hero is both pitiful and endearing. Like Max, you can’t quite decide which. The relationship between Max and his sister-in-law, Lauren (Joanna Adler) is also a treat and produces some of the best scenes; from sharing the discovery of “Friends” themed porn, to publicly mocking Max’s attempt to purchase condoms. She keeps it real with him, letting him know exactly how he is screwing up when he can’t even see it.
It is a confrontation with Ellie, and his direct involvement with the scam that Mikey got caught up in, that really shows Max the depth of his arrogance. The victims of his greed weren’t just ambiguous suckers, but his friends and loved ones, too. From here, Max must figure out how to repair the damage.
Yes, this is a talky, character driven independent drama. The kind where everyone is always drinking something; coffee, tea, wine, etc., but it is a relevant, artful representation of issues that are being tackled by people and families all around the world, every day. The ending sentiment after all of it is as sweet as they come: to make the most out of the life you have, and to find magic in the little things. It may not be Paris, but, almost.