Friday July 3, 1998
Fledgling filmmaker Leslie Smith brings much care, commitment and considerable technical skill to his debut feature, "David Searching," but the result is a picture of parts rather than a cohesive whole. For every moment that rings true there are more that seem false.
The film, which cost only $22,500 to shoot but which never looks cheap, has a certain wistful charm, humor and wisdom, but it's finally not distinctive or fully enough realized to stand out in the crowd of low-budget independent pictures.
The film opens with an ample woman frolicking in Central Park, a thin, pale youth with a shock of reddish hair cradled in her arms. He kisses her passionately. This joyous moment occurs in a dream of the woman, Gwen (Camryn Manheim), who wakes up to the reality of an East Village apartment she is sharing with that young man, David (Anthony Rapp), who happens to be gay.
Although the wise Gwen and the wet-behind-the-ears David become soul mates of sorts, the film never really makes it clear as to whether she has really fallen hard for him or whether the dream merely symbolizes an easy solution to her longings.
Gwen, a coffee-shop waitress who's left her husband, and David, an aspiring documentarian--he's forever shoving a video camera in someone's face--share the problem of finding the right man. With Gwen the right man may in fact be her husband after all, but David hasn't a clue in regard to himself. In the course of this overly long film he does learn a great deal about life, love and himself but none of it is all that riveting, perhaps because he isn't all that riveting. David isn't notably attractive, intelligent or in any way distinctive, which places a heavy burden on a film in which he's the central character.
When men do come along, frankly, it's hard to see what they see in him: He's self-absorbed, rather colorless and even something of a prig. What is it that people perceive in David that makes him so appealing on any level?
You wish that Gwen and also Julie (cabaret performer Julie Halston), David's friend, got more screen time because they are far more involving than David. Also key is Walter (Joseph Fuqua), who manages to make the most of an improbable role: a former tenant of the apartment who shows up because he has no place to go.
Good-looking, perceptive and caring, he offers himself first to David, who reflexively rejects him, and then to Gwen, with whom he has sex but who ultimately rejects him, too.
Come to think of it, "Walter Searching" might well have been a more interesting film than "David Searching."
David Searching, 1998. Unrated. An L4 Ltd. release. Writer-director Leslie L. Smith. Producers Smith and John P. Scholz. Cinematographer Scholz. Editor Toni Blye. Art director Tina Parise. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes. Anthony Rapp as David. Camryn Manheim as Gwen. Joseph Fuqua as Walter. David Courier as Michael. Julie Halston as Julie.