By Don Simpson | December 14, 2010
Director: Erik Mauck
Writer(s): Erik Mauck
Starring: River Gareth, Shirley Thornton, Matt Thornton, Ryan Edgerly
Shannon (River Gareth) wants something more from life, but her roommate/boyfriend Jay (Matt Thornton) is perfectly content with their — more specifically, his — current state of inertia. Talk of marriage and babies freaks Jay out, to paraphrase Jay’s mother (Shirley Thornton): let’s just say that commitment is not Jay’s middle name. Shannon really wants their relationship to grow, but Jay does not take well to the suggestion that their current situation of just passing time together is no longer good enough for Shannon.
Erik Mauck’s (Zombie Girl: The Movie) Straight to the Bone is about how even the mere prospect of change can affect people. Shannon and Jay live in a rapidly growing and ever-changing city (Austin, Texas) which plays a unique character of its own. As the narrative bounces between Shannon and Jay’s story and Blake’s (Ryan Edgerly) story — a nice guy law clerk who is also contemplating making changes in his life — Mauck inserts footage of Austin’s construction and growth (construction cranes are present in every wide shot of the city).
Alongside Lady Bird Lake, Zilker Botanical Gardens, South Congress, the Texas Capitol, Blanton Museum of Art and Mabel Davis Skate Park, Mauck combines “old” Austin establishments (Quack’s, Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon, Kerbey Lane Cafe, Hole in the Wall) with “new” Austin establishments (Nomad, Austin Farmers Market, Wink, Hey Cupcake) to suggest that growth and change does not necessarily mean throwing away the past. Old and new can co-exist. No matter how often people harp about how things used to be, change and growth is a necessary phenomenon for everyone and everything.
Real Ale Brewing Company’s — my favorite central Texas microbrewery — Fireman’s #4 and Rio Blanco Pale Ale make noteworthy appearances in supporting roles; and an Austin Chronicle issue also appears, featuring Kat Candler (Jumping Off Bridges) — one of my favorite Austin filmmakers — on the cover.
In many ways, I think Straight to the Bone may work better as a promotional film for the City of Austin than as a narrative. That is not to say that there are not some great scenes. I enjoyed Blake’s conversation with his boss (Bob Richardson) while drinking at the Nomad; the scene at the Blanton Museum’s Geometry of Hope works extremely well; and any filmmaker who can find a way to effectively work Dale Watson and Chicken Shit Bingo at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon into a narrative deserves significant credit for doing so.
Straight to the Bone is a micro-budget film that is much more interested in capturing the reality of the situations than looking (and sounding) pretty. Mauck takes a cue from the Mumblecore crowd by allowing scenes and dialogue to play out at a natural pace, all the while revealing a knack for Slacker-esque conversations and monologues that are sometimes profoundly philosophical and other times quite mundane. Straight to the Bone covers a lot of topics concerning white urban twenty-somethings (on the verge of turning thirty): money, education, commitment, families, freedom, escape, and — most importantly — getting unstuck.