Your enjoyment for Michael A. MacRae’s indie Fishbowl California will vary on your tolerance towards its lead characters.
Rodney (Steve Olson) is the ultimate slacker. He’s broke and an incessant liar who thinks he’s the funniest person in the room; including when he’s being interviewed by complete strangers for jobs he desperately needs. When it’s revealed that his girlfriend Tess (Katrina Bowden) has been cheating with another man, I had a hard time even feigning concern considering how patient I’ve seen Tess be towards Rodney the schlub. There may be an audience that connects with the film’s man-child, but I found Rodney to be extremely obnoxious.
Rodney, however, meets his match when he indirectly lands a job helping an older woman with household chores. Just like the unambitious freeloader, June (Katherine Cortez) also has troublesome social skills, but her snappy attitude is caused by her alcoholism and dwindling health. After some playful ribbing, Rodney and June start to develop a friendship that they both benefit from.
Consider Fishbowl California an anti-buddy comedy, but not as clever or ballsy as Jeremy LaLonde’s The Go-Getters. Mind you, those films are in separate leagues: The Go-Getters was a surly dark comedy, and Fishbowl California wants to go for sweet sentimentality. However, the disorderly leads in LaLonde’s film needed each other to work towards a mutual goal. In Fishbowl California, Olson and Cortez form a friendly relationship, but it’s obligatory in the sense that people will naturally magnetize to each other when they spend enough time together. There’s nothing special about their bond other than the overall convenience to the situation.
Occasionally, a character actor shows up to make a cameo. Kate Flannery (NBC’s The Office) has some nicely timed reactions as a frustrated boss, and Tim Bagley (Netflix’s Grace and Frankie) is amusingly quirky as a nitpicky neighbour. The real scene stealer is Lucas Krystek as Charlie, the young son of Rodney’s landlord who is seen doing managerial tasks and chastising Rodney about responsibilities. It’s ironic that Charlie is possibly the only mature character in the movie, and that’s really funny. It’s even better that Krystek is slightly on the outs of the joke, maintaining realistic innocence to his role.
I don’t need to see any further chapters about Rodney or June, but I would totally be game for a Charlie spin-off. Here’s a pitch: Charlie takes a trip to Orlando, and volunteers his time to maintaining a motel on the outskirts of Walt Disney World.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie