Last weekend, movie-goers could choose titles such as "The Butler," "Elysium," "The Family" and more. Then, there was something called "A Strange Brand of Happy," rated PG-13.
Local audiences had to drive to Carmike 12 in Findlay to see this romantic comedy written and directed by Tiffin native Brad Wise and produced by Rebel Pilgrim Productions. Paul Pospisil, manager of Carmike 12, offered a media screening of the film, which is to remain in Findlay through Sept. 26 (possibly a bit longer).
Filmed mostly in Cincinnati, the movie follows the plight of a bachelor named David who is downsized from his office job in the opening minutes of the film. No doubt, many people can identify with that situation. Producer Joe Boyd is convincing in the lead role.
Dejected, David goes back to his residence, where his roommate and best friend, Ben, tries to console him. Ben reminds David how much he hated the job and says maybe now David can find the ideal job he actually likes.
David replies that following one's dreams is "a fairy tale, a lie so you'll keep paying your taxes."
In a neighborhood coffee shop, Ben chances to meet Joyce and her female friend. Because Joyce is a life coach, Ben decides to hook her up with David, who is depressed and clueless about what to do next.
Rebecca St. James, an actress and Christian singer from Australia, is cast as Joyce. Ironically, none of her music is on the soundtrack.
In spite of a rocky introduction, David and Joyce connect with one another. She even persuades David to volunteer at a local senior citizens home. The plot thickens when David discovers the man who fired him also is seeking Joyce's affections.
Shirley Jones and her husband, Marty Ingels, play residents at the home. David entertains the seniors with drawings to accompany a story the seniors compose. Joyce encourages David to use his artistic talents to benefit others and to express himself. Between scenes, the film has clever animated segments David supposedly created.
As the story progresses, David's pretty landlord, Terri, makes a play for him, and the rivalry between David and William heats up. The nursing home characters offer advice, sometimes with humorous results. The writer tells the story without expensive special effects or offensive language.
The word "God" actually comes up a number of times in the dialogue as Joyce shares her faith, a poet recites a religious poem and William sings an inspirational song. Joyce's line describing her satisfaction in helping others as "a strange brand of happy" gives the movie its title.
This viewer noticed a light bulb theme in the drawings and the photography. That probably was intended to be symbolic of the spiritual awakening of the main character.
The filmmaker also relied heavily on facial close-ups of the characters. The soundtrack features 25 songs by various artists in various genres. Five are original songs by composer Jim Zartman.
The screenplay wisely condenses some of the action to focus on the most important events; however, some blanks in the script are disappointing. David's occupation is never specifically defined. Ben appears to be unemployed, but his status is not revealed. It is hard to believe Joyce can make a living teaching yoga and life coaching.
Also part of the action happens at an open mic in a place called "Ponderings." Is it a restaurant, a church, a coffeehouse?
"A Strange Brand of Happy" is a charming motion picture, but viewers probably will leave with questions. Perhaps the writer is setting up for a sequel. Maybe he wants audiences to think about their relationship with God, or maybe the story is supposed to mirror the questions of human life. Individuals can make their own conclusions.
MaryAnn Kromer is an A-T staff writer. Email her at email@example.com.