Thomas Thompson

Better Place, A

11th April 2004
A Better Place Poster reviewer: Thomas Thompson
rating: 5 out of 5
directed by: Vincent Pereira
written by: Vincent Pereira
starring: Jerry Rosamilia, Robert DiPatri, Eion Bailey
genre: Drama
released: TBC

A debut film by Vincent Pereira, a man affectionately referred to as the View Askew historian on many an audio track, ‘A Better Place’ is a budget flick made shortly after Mallrats. Its a View Askew production, funded by Kevin Smith and Scott Moiser, and has a fair number of the askew 'regulars' making up its cast of cameos. The two main actors however are not part of the standard entourage, both making their cinematic debut in this film. One went on to have a small but memorable bit part in Fight Club, the other has done nothing since in film or TV of note. Watching the performance of both it is little surprise Eion Bailey landed a roll in the best film of the 1900s, but in contrast very surprising to see an otherwise empty filmography for Robert DiPatri. Perhaps this is testament to how small an audience this film has enjoyed.

The film, nominated for a Golden Starfish Award in the category of 'Best American Independent Film', is an excellent dramatic piece about the friendship that develops between two late teens in suburban New Jersey, both with painful histories. As Barret (Robert DiPatri) moves to a new area with his mother, half a year on after his father's accidental death, he finds himself an outsider in a very unwelcoming community consisting of his piers. His first day at his new school sees him "nearly beaten up twice, and accused of sexual harassment". He puts on a “fuck you too” attitude that not only makes it clear he isn't a victim, but provides a very real depth to the character.

A confrontation with a school bully results in the local loner, Ryan (Eion Bailey) intervening, and starting a fight with the now back peddling student. Coming to his defence is enough to encourage Barret to start a friendship with the intelligent, but troubled Ryan. When they share their backgrounds, both involving the death of one or more parents, their bond becomes secured, and the two become very close friends over a short amount of time.

As Ryan finds someone to open up to, someone who doesn't judge him based on his horrific experience, he demonstrates a very dark and cynical view of the world, as the bond usually already developed in View Askew films grows through conversation. When Barret does begin to fit in and make further friends, however, Ryan is unwilling to accept new company, and instead falls further into his nihilistic tendencies, which take on progressively more violent forms of venting.

When the two friends find themselves with a dead body they hold the responsibility for it is testament to the script, the acting and the direction how believable the scenario is, and how believable the further actions are.

In a situation where all are victim of the society they live in, but refuse to be victim to one other, Ryan finds himself in an inescapable conflict with another troubled teen. He and the student are both suffering from the actions of their fathers. Ryan, now living with his Aunt, who blames him for his mother's death at his father's hands, was witness to his father's homicide and subsequent suicide at the age of 10, and hasn't since recovered from the event. The bully on the other hand is trying to 'be a man' to quell his own father's expectations, which are voiced through verbal abuse.

Ryan, having denounced God, stems further onto a destructive path, with the goal of making the world 'a better place’. His piers, history and domestic upbringing prove to be the catalysts of his journey, which Barret tries hard to deter him from.

This is a powerful and moving drama, treading ground that could never make it mainstream. The characters are developed, likeable, and relatable. Their world is recognisable as the real one, their anger arguably just.

As Ryan accepts his path, having at earlier points in the film expressed want of change, things go from bad to worse for all involved, leading to the disastrous but necessary conclusion...

Watch out for Jason Lee, Ethan Suplee, Vincent Pereira, and Brian Lynch in a main roll, in one of the most gritty and real Jersey based movies to sport the View Askew logo. This is an excellent dramatic piece, and an exceptional debut from a knowledgeable and talented director.

The Director's cut DVD comes with audio commentary by select cast and crew, as well as several deleted scenes with optional Pereira commentary, and three separate introductions to the film by producers Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier. Highly recommended viewing.