Frank Ross Week at No Budge Films
By Don Simpson | July 9, 2012
Director: Frank V. Ross
Writer: Frank V. Ross
Starring: Frank V. Ross, Tamara Fana, Anthony J. Baker, Sasha Gioppo, Allison Latta, Lonnie Phillips, Joe Swanberg, Kris Swanberg
Christy (Tamara Fana) lives with Buddy (Frank V. Ross) in the basement of her parents’ house. As with most couples who reside in a family member’s basement, they have no other option. They juggle their respective work schedules with the care of their baby, using Christy’s parents as babysitters whenever necessary.
Having an unplanned baby much too early in their relationship has trapped this young couple in a very unhappy place. When they are together, their verbal attacks reek of the venomous disdain that they share for each other. By the time we enter their story, Buddy’s resentment of his parental obligations have festered into a cancer-like state. He would much rather hang out with his friends — or date other women — than be anywhere near Christy. As time passes, it becomes increasingly obvious that Christy feels the same way.
I watched writer-director Frank V. Ross’ Present Company (2008) after already seeing Audrey the Trainwreck (2010) and Tiger Tail in Blue (2012), making it very difficult to avoid comparing the three films. The three films focus on the feeling of being stuck in life due to economic forces that may (or may not) be out of the characters’ control. But while Audrey and Tiger Tail deal primarily with the tediousness of having to work crappy jobs in order to keep up with one’s cost of living, Present Company ups the ante by tossing an unplanned baby into the mix.
There is nothing like an unplanned child to really cramp one’s style. In Present Company, Christy is an aspiring writer who must put her dreams on hold because of her financial situation; instead, she works as a waitress to keep up with the costs of raising a baby. We never really learn about Buddy’s dreams and aspirations, other than to escape his current predicament. The problem is, Buddy assumes that his only chance for escape is to pursue another woman — Sam (Sasha Gioppo) — without divulging the truth of his current situation. Buddy walks that tricky high wire act for as long as he can, but we all know that it will eventually explode in his face.
In my review of Tiger Tail, I mention that there is something perversely fulfilling about observing fictional cinematic characters going through shit that is incredibly similar to what I deal with on a day-to-day basis; but watching Present Company was a much more difficult experience for me. Even though I can acknowledge that Tamara Fana and Frank V. Ross’ performances are brutally realistic, I have not shared in any of their on screen experiences. And while I would assume that feeling no sense of kinship with the characters would make Present Company much easier to watch, my viewing experience was quite the opposite. I suspect this is at least partially because Buddy — at least from my perspective — is such an unlikable character. While I thoroughly enjoyed Ross’ performance, Buddy really began to get on my nerves. The characters in Ross’ subsequent films are more toned down; even if they are not likable, they offer some reasons for empathy.
Present Company will be available to stream online (for free) for a limited time during Frank Ross Week at No Budge Films (which will also feature screenings of Audrey the Trainwreck and Tiger Tail in Blue). Check out the No Budge website for more information.