Millennials Talk Cinema: ‘Roped,’ ‘Lady Driver’ filmed in Petaluma
You guys! “Lady Driver” is set in Petaluma!
I'll back up.
“Lady Driver” is a locally shot film, made by the same production company of last year's “Bennett's War” and a few other recent releases available on Netflix. It's always a treat to see Petaluma in the movies, but it's a little rarer to have it be named as the town where the action officially takes place.
And what can I say, I got excited.
Beyond the local color, I was so engaged and endeared by this movie. Ellie Lansing's enthusiasm and good nature made for a compelling main character, and Grace van Dien captures that so well. Van Dien's chemistry with Sean Patrick Flanery (who plays her estranged uncle Tim, and whom I always appreciate) makes for a really warm central relationship, as Tim takes Ellie under his wing to learn about cars, racing, and the father she never knew.
I also really enjoyed that this was a movie that didn't have to manufacture drama, as it is populated by believably flawed people, trying to do their best. Well, them and the villanous Buck McCreadie, made delightfully hateable by David Gridley.
“Lady Driver” has its clunky moments, and it's definitely not unpredictable, but I really liked it. If you enjoy movies about racing, or family connections - or figuring out where you fit in - give it a spin.
Having said that, there is categorically no Waffle House within 20 miles of Petaluma.
Go to Henny Penny, McCreadie, like a real Petaluman.
[Suggested emojis: Happy Face, Race Car emoji]
After almost two months of sheltering in place, online movie watchers are facing the sad reality that we are running out of new, quality content to enjoy. As a person who was taught at a young age to give all films a chance - that even those with dull titles and terrible trailers can still surprise you - I decided to check out “Roped,” produced by Petaluma raised Ali Afshar.
Well, boy, can I tell you this new-to-Netflix cowboy romance definitely surprised me.
As I grumpily began to watch this film I had zero desire to see, I quickly found myself smiling. Not because it was good (oh no), but because it was so incredibly ridiculous.
Truth be told, I am 100% not the audience demographic this movie is aimed for, so I actually feel a bit guilty reviewing it. But hey, if you are an anti-liberal, straight, middle- aged woman who binge watches the Hallmark channel, then you will very probably love “Roped!”
Okay. So the premise is, a touring rodeo comes to a small super- progressive town, (filmed right here in Petaluma and Tomales!), with some good rodeo action, by the way. Young sexy cowboy in training, Colton Burtenshaw (Josh Swickard of “General Hospital”), falls for way-too-old-to-be-a-teenager Tracy Peterson (Lorynn York, of “Dear White People”), the daughter of a militant vegetarian, anti-rodeo leader on the city hall.
Yes my friends, our antagonist is an evil vegetarian.
(Insert crying-so-hard-you're-laughing emoji.)
As the educated villain tries to convince the town that rodeos are inhumane and should be shut down, Tracy finds herself further attracted to Colton and his rodeo - much to the horror of her father.
Does Tracy pursue love with her meat-eating enemy?
Will Colton get to do the rodeo and finally get a sponsor?
Will the mean, liberal townspeople ever stop harassing the nice cowboys?
And will Colton actually turn up at a drag race … riding a horse?
Only one way to find out.
So please, try something new, grab a bottle of wine, virtually assemble any friends who need a good laugh online, and enjoy ripping apart “Roped.”
[Suggested Emojis: Two laughing-so-hard-they-are-crying Faces]
‘MIDDLEDITCH AND SCHWARTZ'
Imagine having five minutes to ring out a few details from a person you've never met, and then acting out an entire show, 100% spur-of-the-moment, with no script, and no idea what the other actor onstage is going to say next. All you know is that from the beginning to the end of the performance, you all need to tell a story, together, with a beginning and a resolution, and that the packed-to-the-gills audience is expecting comedy gold.
The pressure alone has to be staggering.
But as Thomas Middleditch and Ben Schwartz exchange lines, writing a story live on stage with more speed and fluidity than I ever thought humanly possible, we watch in utter awe, as they do exactly that - entertain us for almost two hours, concocting the tale of a wedding of hilarious happenstance, complete with jealous ex-lovers, panicky groomsmen, drunken in-laws, and the oddest selection of wedding guests imaginable (surprise specters of the past and beyond included).
The most enchanting part?
It all happens after a short talk with a couple of audience members, and the only props are two classroom chairs.
That's it. That's all they need to jumpstart a monstrously enthralling comedy.
Well, that and bucket-loads of hard work, training and talent.
I cackled, gasped, and restarted halfway through the first show so I could wrangle my father into joining me.
Before clicking play on the duo's new Netflix special, I had no real understanding of what “long form improv” meant. But I was a fan of Ben Schwartz, whom you might recognize from “Parks & Recreation,” on which he played the oddly charming Jean Ralphio, or most recently the voice of the titular blue speedster from 2020's “Sonic the Hedgehog.” I knew Schwartz was a clever writer, a talented actor, and funny comedian. What I didn't know was how absolutely amazing and scarily brilliant he and Middleditch are when they perform improv.
I can't do this show justice by describing it to you. You have to experience that first episode to really comprehend how cool it is to watch two truly skilled comedians whip up what amounts to a fully-improvised play, on a stage, with no preparation. This is not to say things always go smoothly.
Juggling so many characters and motivations can get confusing even for professionals, but the pair play off any hiccups with hilarious commitment, rolling new jokes and plot developments from swapped names, accidental details, or unplanned interactions.
I've since seen all three of the episodes, and each one is freaking fantastic, showcasing a fresh story, and a truly organic show that runs the gamut from “Are you sure this isn't planned” to “Oh wow, this is not planned at all,” in the most delightful, engaging, and refreshing way possible.
Wild, weird and wonderful, “Middleditch & Schwartz” is a can't-miss comedy special from a genuinely ingenious duo that should be queued up on your Netflix immediately.
[Suggested Emojis: Happy Face, Heart-Eyed Face]