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Chicago-set ensemble drama 'Rogers Park' shines with authenticity

Chicago-set ensemble drama 'Rogers Park' shines with authenticity
Christine Horn in a scene from "Rogers Park." (AOK Productions)

Watching couples and families fight in "Rogers Park" sometimes feels like you're the outsider at a dysfunctional family dinner, observing all the drama around the table. If that sounds stressful to the confrontation-averse in the audience, it often is, but this indie drama from director Kyle Henry largely works due to its authenticity in replicating real-world relationship challenges.

In Chicago's diverse Rogers Park neighborhood, two couples struggle with problems both big and small. At an anniversary party for Grace (Sara Sevigny) and Zeke (Antoine McKay), her troubled brother Chris (Jonny Mars) embarrasses her with a tirade about family issues, and things aren't much better for him at home with his partner Deena (Christine Horn). Meanwhile, Grace and Zeke may look like a happy couple, but they face both financial and familial strains.

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"Rogers Park" is populated by real people with real problems, though the dialogue in Carlos Treviño's script doesn't always serve them well. The lines sometimes feel manufactured, but there's real warmth — or frustration or anger, depending on the scene — present in these authentic performances.

The film grew out of improvisation from its team both in front of and behind the camera, and it results in a lived-in final product. With those origins in mind, Henry's work doesn't always feel like it knows where it's going, but that approach contributes to a picture that feels like real life, for better or for worse.

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'Rogers Park'

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes

Playing: Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena

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