"Making The Day", Dir: Michael Canzionero, 2021
Updated: Apr 2, 2021
One of the unexpected (honest...) consequences of starting this blog is that I've been contacted by various productions requesting reviews of films that have yet to be released, though I suspect recent tinkering with Google Analytics for this site has a lot to do with this - only two so far and both U.S / Hollywood productions and from opposite ends of the budget spectrum.
One boasted some well-known names that I passed on because the subject didn't appeal to me, the other was clearly an independently financed, more modestly scaled film which I initially felt reluctant to review because the theme of the blog is films that have some track record that I am aware of but have never actually seen, and have been extensively reviewed elsewhere.
That doesn't rule out new releases that I might be drawn to, "Lucky Grandma" (Dir: Sasie Sealy, 2020) being a case in point, so having watched the trailer for "Making The Day" I decided to give it a once-over since there were aspects to it that appealed to me, primarily the "neorealist" / documentary quality of the storytelling, making it sit somewhere between the kind of fixed camera observational style of "The Office" and the faux documentary style of "Spinal Tap".
That would suggest that the film is a comedy along those lines but I wasn't sure what to expect and decided to allow it to unfold. There is no indication that it is a comedy at the outset.
Broadly speaking it's a film about filming, in this case an independent film mounted by its writer/director who is called "Nick Fazzio", a former actor no longer being sought after for film roles. It drifts into that tricky territory of being a first film about the travails of making a first film and an independent one at that, which can be a hit and miss affair suggestive of desperation.
Having recently watched and enjoyed a lot of films by Éric Rohmer, in my mind the benchmark for an observational style of narrative, free of the normal rules of film-making had been set very high. There is never any point in his films where you are aware that the camera is a presence, with long cuts that allow room for the actors to perform. Thus the end result feels like a fly-on-the-wall documentary even if it clearly isn't.
Rohmer worked within budgetary limitations that imposed constraints like locked-off cameras, pans and cuts, something that the makers of "Making The Day" would have faced but with the key difference that contemporary technology, ie primarily lightweight cameras that allow more unrestricted freeform style resulting in something more manic than Rohmer's very considered approach.
I have no idea whether Rohmer storyboarded his films and it's unlikely since he evolved a style based around improvisation, sometimes unscripted, from his actors. Now, many independent films require detailed storyboarding, especially where you are working with actors who you've never worked with before and to a tight schedule. It feels very much like this is the case with "Making The Day", reflected in the use of multiple camera angles to cover a shot, two-shots, close-ups and constant motion, matched by the manic performance of the female lead Juliette Bennett.
However, these points are more about style and it does the film a disservice to compare it too closely to, for example, Rohmer's work - it is however an odd mixture of different styles that somehow work together to deliver an entertaining comedy that makes light of the often arduous and frequently frustrating process of making a first film.
In this case where there is a real threat to life and limb for the beleaguered director (Steven Randazzo) in search of funds to complete his cherished project after he is offered cash through a contact of his dodgy accountant who turns out to be a money launderer and borderline psychopath.
A parallel plot concerns an aspiring actress (Juliette Bennett) in search of a role that will allow her to shine and who, having consulted her spiritual advisor - a scene I found funny because her advisor, clearly not Indian, utters a Sanskrit prayer in word-perfect fashion before announcing that she sees the letter "L" as having some significance, and which gently mocks cultural appropriation - is drawn towards the film being made.
I'm not familiar with any of the actors in the film and Steven Randazzo in particular gives a stand-out performance as the writer/director "Nick Fazzio" that feels unrehearsed and natural in contrast to Juliette Bennetts' hilariously manic performance as the "actressy" "Samantha Vanderputten", all Indian fabrics, brass Buddhas and Boho Chic, who blags herself the lead female role of "Linda" in Fazzio's film, based on his late wife.
Dwayne Hill, an American actor, turns in a menacing performance as the towering "Mr Smith" the dodgy financier, with a very convincing Glaswegian Scottish accent, facial scars and a man-bun, who never at any point drifts out of character.
Shot guerrilla-style, and seemingly improvised, in New York locations including the subway and on trains, the film has a gritty documentary quality and some funny moments such as a scene where Vanderputten is trying to convince the increasingly frustrated Fazzio that she is right for the role while in a crowded commuter train.
One scene in particular resulted in déjà vu since it was very similar to a wild-goose chase for film financing that I once unwittingly participated in. In the film, Vanderputten - whose "larger than life' persona typifies and parodies many people in the profession - drags the down-to-earth Fazzio along to an exclusive private-view after convincing him that a friend in attendance will bale him out with money to keep the film afloat before "Mr Smith" turns up to collect, something that fails to materialize.
In my case it was a crazy drive from the suburbs with an erstwhile producer and his girlfriend whom I had met for the first time on the day, with a promise to get me into an exclusive party in central London with celebrity guests, which was followed by a fruitless exercise in collaring people as they exited the party to get their tickets or in gaining entry by claiming that they knew people inside. As celebrities came and went we stood in the rain as he and his girlfriend cooked up ever more outrageous ruses involving various masquerades, none of which worked, while I became increasingly angry at being taken in.
While the events that swirl around Nick Fazzio are given a comic slant, Randazzo's performance is an unwavering and truthful still-centre anchoring the film to reality except until the very end when everything finally falls into place and the cameras start to roll on his film - unlike the often bitter-sweet endings of an Eric Rohmer film, in fact, but then while "Making The Day" borrows a great deal from neorealist film conventions such as improvisation to tell the sombre tale of a man making a film to honour the memory of his dead wife, it manages to do it with a comic lightness of touch and gentle irony and with several genuinely funny moments.
Overall a great first film for both its' director Michael Canzionero and the cast, that shows promise. In the meantime, I look forward to seeing the film on any of the streaming services, which I'm sure will happen.
I was asked to rate the film which I don't normally do, however, out of 10 I'd give it an 8.5.
"Making The Day" / 2021 - *IMDB
Director : Michael Canzionero
Writers : Michael Berenbaum and Michael Canzionero
Steven Randazzo as "Nick Fazzio"
Juliette Bennett as "Samantha Vanderputten"
Dwayne Hill as "Mr Smith"