Friday, September 30, 2016

Movie Review: "Pushing Dead" (2016)

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Movie"Pushing Dead"
Director: Tom E. Brown
Rating: NR
Running Time: 1 hour, 48 minutes

An HIV positive man who has been living with the disease for over two decades suddenly has his medical insurance suspended when a $100 birthday check pushes him out of the low income bracket.

"Pushing Dead" is written and directed by Tom E. Brown. It stars James Roday as Dan Schauble, a struggling writer who is HIV positive and has been for the past 22 years. When he deposits a $100 birthday check from his mom, it pushes him out of his low income bracket and he is subsequently pushed out of his healthcare plan. The medications he needs to live used to be covered under this plan and are now going to cost him thousands of dollars out of pocket, thousands of dollars he can't afford. Joining Roday are Robin Weigert, who plays Dan's roommate Paula, Danny Glover, who plays Dan's boss Bob, who has recently been kicked out of his home by his wife Dot, played by Khandi Alexander. All of the actors here do a rather excellent job in their respective roles, especially James Roday and Danny Glover. Roday is witty, sort of snarky, but not totally sure of his place in the world as an HIV positive man in his 40's. He hasn't quite come to terms with his illness and has been reluctant to tell anyone about his "pos" status, which means he bottles his emotions up. Glover is always brilliant as these grizzled old grumpy characters. He and Roday have a great dynamic as these two unlikely friends. Robin Weigert is equally as great as her male counterparts in the role of Paula. Weigert and Roday act the hell out of their scenes together in a relationship where their bond is clearly much deeper than being merely roommates. We get a sense of who these characters are as well as what their day to day struggles are based on these performances.

This is a slice of life character driven comedic drama that deals with HIV and being HIV positive in a very honest way. Writer/director Tom E. Brown manages to make a movie about the subject that isn't downright depressing, which is very much intentional, according to executive producer Ian Reinhard, who mentioned this in a brief Q&A after the film screened at the San Diego International Film Festival. This notable cast and crew manages to create a lot of laughs, but there is also a hefty dose of personal drama in the plot as well. Finally, since Dan is a writer, he has a very active imagination, and his dreams and fantasies come to life from time to time in an array of quirky, captivating, interesting, and sometimes disturbing visuals. Another quirky bit of comedy comes from the odd relationship Paula forms with the creepy stuffed monkey Dan bought her as a gift at a garage sale. Since she has had a hard time finding a good man on dates, she seems to gravitate towards this bizarre monkey doll as if it were her child. This odd "friendship" provides a lot of hilarious and awkward moments.

The biggest downfall in "Pushing Dead" is its pacing. Unfortunately, the film does feel like it drags a bit from time to time. It feels a little longer than it really is, even though its run time isn't even two hours long. That being said, "Pushing Dead" is still a fine film. For a movie about a character who is HIV positive, it manages to be quite humorous, very poignant, and even touching, too. The acting is great, the writing is full of wit, and the directing is solid. The interesting choices Tom E. Brown has made in regard to the direction of this story sets it apart from the hundreds of other films about HIV, and we really enjoyed watching this sweet movie.

My Rating: 6.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: ~6.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ----%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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