AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL 2010
By Don Simpson | October 18, 2010
Director: Mark Potts
Writer: Mark Potts, Cole Selix
Starring: Brand Rackley, Cole Selix, Helen Thomas, Kiley Ingram, Lindsey Newell, Mark Potts, Nick Tankersley
Sal (Cole Selix) and Mel (Mark Potts) run S&M Lawn Care. Mel mows lawns because lawn care is in his blood (his deceased father was once a great lawn care specialist) Sal mows lawns in order to save money to travel to the Amazon. Everything is going as planned until one day someone starts stealing S&M’s hard-earned lawns in complete disregard of the Lawn Care Treaty of 1995.
It turns out that Drake (William Brand Rackley), a sleazy jerk with long hair and goatee, is stealing S&M’s business with a slickly produced commercial and seductively clad female assistants — sex sells and everyone around town is buying. Drake even donates his used lawn mowers to the “Darfurinians.” How can S&M compete with that?
Lawns By Drake functions cleverly as a allegory for big budget Hollywood films — the filmmakers who put style and sex over substance — while S&M Lawn Care represents the hard-working and big-hearted independent filmmakers of the world. This David and Goliath struggle seems most prevalent in the world of comedic films. In my opinion, S&M Lawn Care is a million times funnier than The Other Guys, Get Him to the Greek or Funny People; but it is extremely rare that an independent comedy is able to beat a Hollywood comedy in the box office. Heck it is nearly impossible for independent comedies to even have an opportunity to compete at the box office.
Sal and Mel eventually come to the conclusion that trickery and cheating is their only recourse to regain their customer base. So, in our analogy, where does this leave independent filmmakers? Is it really possible for independent filmmakers to trick and cheat the Drakes of the world of cinema?
There is vomiting, dream sequences (including a great cameo with an iconic D.C. political personality), spirit totems and lawn mower chases. Despite the near-constant goofiness and tomfoolery we never lose touch with the reality of Sal and Mel. Potts is downright hillarious as Mel; he is clearly the comic relief (in some ways Mel is reminiscent of a young Dwight Schrute) but always maintains the necessary level of naturalism in order to keep the character sympathetic for the audience. (“This is Mel’s phone, ringy dingy dingy. This is Mel’s phone, ringy dingy dingy.”) Selix, though also incredibly funny, plays Sal as the straight character who bases most of his opinions and actions on concrete scientific facts. Together they are a fantastic duo to whom Rackley plays the pitch perfect nemesis.
Besides playing the lead roles, Potts functions as director, co-writer, cinematographer and editor; Selix functions as co-writer. S&M Lawn Care is the third feature from Singletree Productions (The Stanton Family Grave Robbery and Simmons on Vinyl) which was formed in 2006 by Potts and Selix.
Also check out our engrossing AFF 2010 interview with Mark Potts, Cole Selix and Brand Rackley.