Fix Dir. Tao Ruspoli

[Mangusta Pictures; 2009]

Fix, director Tao Ruspoli’s new feature, is allegedly based on true events. And, if you don’t immediately recognize Olivia Wilde (from TV’s House), you might, for a moment, think that it’s a documentary. Ruspoli sets out to tell this countdown to sundown, one-crazy-day journey story as though it’s non-fiction – he and Wilde even play a pair of documentary filmmakers. And while this style mash-up seems interesting in theory, Fix lacks a documentary’s compelling, honest humanity and sense of purpose.

During the opening credits, we briskly – if not a bit awkwardly – learn that Milo (Ruspoli) and his girlfriend Bella (Wilde) are driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles in the wee hours of the morning to pick up Milo’s brother, Leo (Shawn Andrews), who needs to make it to a drug rehab facility by eight o’clock that evening. If Leo doesn’t get there in time, he’ll go to prison.

At the beginning, Bella plays the skeptical realist who doesn’t understand why Milo continues to assist/enable his adult brother. She also wonders why Milo insists on filming this debacle. He argues that Leo’s story is part of the larger one they’re telling through their documentary about America’s prison system. “I know the difference between trying to expose a systemic problem that affects hundreds of thousands of people and risking our lives for one lone manic,” she replies with utter seriousness.

Despite her apparent distaste for any adventure, Bella scribbles out a check when Leo asks to borrow $800 to rescue his car from the impound. Then, when he jumps into the driver’s seat – although he has no license -- she inexplicably, and without much cajoling, gets into the car. Why? Who knows. The only possible explanation is that Ruspoli needed the plot to move forward, and if Bella refused to come along for the ride, the trio would be stuck with nowhere to go.

From the impound, the drug addict, his documentary filmmaker brother (who, of course, hates when anyone else takes charge of the camera and points its inquiring eye his way), and his girlfriend travel throughout Los Angeles, looking for ways to raise the $5000 Leo needs to check into the rehab facility.

Leo cooks up ridiculous schemes and Milo and Bella trail passively along – from selling his newly retrieved car at a chop shop where he’s known as Hermes, to stealing and then attempting to sell an English Bulldog, to buying a pound of medical-grade marijuana on loan and trying to turn it into cash, fast. You would think it would be easy to unload some high-quality pot in California, but strangely, they can’t make it happen. Each bad idea introduces them to a new, shallowly written character. But it’s the moments between these meetings that prove most irritating.

Shot like sleek but sufficiently-indie music videos, the road-trip sections of Fix reappear frequently. We watch, in short, quick cuts, as the three misfits ride California’s highways from Calabasas to Venice. Fisheye lens, overexposure, hand-held shakiness – they’re all in there. It’s an onslaught of style without any apparent connection to the story. But it looks hip, and since no one talks during these driving sequences, Ruspoli needed something to complement the music (which comes care of dead prez, Ima Robot, Nico Stai, and others).

Perhaps the only redeeming quality about Fix is Andrews’ performance as Leo. He brings sincerity and charm to the character -- no easy task when you’re playing a manipulative drug addict. He even manages to win over Bella, although her transformation occurs suddenly and without much build.

It’s hardly a surprise when Leo makes it to the rehab center with only a minute to spare. After all, this is fiction, not reality. Ruspoli can make all the pieces fit together just so. Without a little messiness, and the desperate drive that comes with needing to clean life up, Fix is little more than a cinematic trompe l'oeil.

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