Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Flakes

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Bohemian Bistro Threatened by Corporate Creep in Quirky Comedy

Neal Downs (Aaron Stanford) dreams of becoming a rock star while his girlfriend, Rachel Irene “Pussy” Katz (Zooey Deschanel), just as badly wants to become a famous artist. But right now, they’re not very close to their goals, given that he spends too much time in a dead-end day job managing a bohemian bistro, and she sells anti-establishment t-shirts and kitschy knick-knacks to tourists in a nearby curio shop.
His restaurant, Flakes, a popular New Orleans hangout, only has one thing on the menu: cereal, though its walls are lined with a hundred different varieties. And for some reason, the concept has caught on, and the establishment has built up a loyal clientele comprised mostly of stoners and other slackers.
The plot thickens soon after Stuart (Keir O’Donnell), a cagey corporate-type, shows up on the premises and casually starts asking probing questions about what’s involved in running the business. What na├»ve Neal doesn’t know is that this calculating, clean-cut yuppie isn’t just curious but seriously considering opening a competing cereal diner on the corner right across the street. And when he does exactly that, it sets in motion a chain reaction which turns Neal and Pussy’s world upside-down.
For, Stuart will stop at nothing to steal Flakes’ formerly loyal customers over to his antiseptic alternative, despite his place’s having a bright, uptight, fast food chain environment where employees have to wear name tags and rubber gloves and pay strict attention to portion size. In fact, even Pussy takes a job there, which obviously causes tension in the couple’s already stormy relationship.
As intriguing as this scenario might sound, unfortunately, Flakes doesn’t have much going for it in the way of cinematic appeal. A flaw is the fact that the leads are not particularly likable, not even Zoeey Deschanel, who has recently exhibited an abundance of promise in both Failure to Launch and Elf. However, here, her efforts are wasted in service of a script which fills her and the other characters’ mouths with unconvincing dialogue at every turn.
Again and again, the film squanders its every opportunity to make a meaningful statement, whether about post-Katrina gentrification, about the pressure on these wannabe Peter Pans having to make concessions to adulthood, about the crush of a mom-and-pop operation by an avaricious conglomerate, or about any of the worthwhile themes hinted at but studiously avoided. Overall, a disappointingly superficial enterprise, given its undeservedly smug, countercultural airs.

Fair (1 star)
Unrated
Running time: 84 minutes
Studio: IFC Films

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