It would be hard to kick off your moviegoing 2007 in a more original way than checking out "Colma: The Musical" at the Egyptian, part of its Outfest Wednesdays series. A tuneful paean to the jumbled feelings that a trio of disaffected high school grads have toward their San Francisco-adjacent hometown (a cemetery-laden suburb that "finally got an In-N-Out Burger"), their future and their friendships with one another, this is a cracking debut film for director Richard Wong, as well as its songwriter-screenwriter-co-star H.P. Mendoza.
With the kind of piano-rock ebullience and cheeky wit that gives it the feeling of a melding of Kevin Smith-meets-Ben Folds, "Colma" shows that the musical form not only still has legitimacy, but also that its survival may lie within the unfettered imagination of independent filmmakers.
Wong's direction is a hybrid of classical compositions, stylish editing and small-scale film techniques. A case in point is the invigorating "Crash the Party" number, set in a college rave-up house, which utilizes drunken revelers as clapping backup, the camera seamlessly moving from room to room, split-screen, and the leads handling some precision-timed singing.
The story's main threesome consists of romance-addled, aspiring actor Billy (Jake Moreno); his acerbic, poetry-writing gay friend Rodel (Mendoza); and their hard-partying female companion Maribel (L.A. Renigen). As the specter of life after high school sinks in, and the limitations of their town loom large ("Colma stays fast as a tortoise / Colma stays like rigor mortis," the opening number goes), cracks begin to show in their tightness as chums. What's remarkable about "Colma" is that even without the songs, Mendoza and Wong still have created a sharp indie.
"Colma: The Musical," 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 466-3456, americancinematheque.com