Festival fades out with 'Beginner's Guide'

NEWPORT BEACH — The 2011 Newport Beach Film Festival concludes Thursday night with "A Beginner's Guide to Endings," a dark comedy about making the most of the time you have left in life, at the Regency Lido Theatre.

The closing night gala, hosted by Riviera magazine, will follow at 8 p.m. at Lido Marina Village. The village was transformed into "Riviera Village" for festival as Lido Goes Pop! temporary retailers took over long-vacant office spaces.

"A Beginner's Guide to Endings," written and directed by Jonathan Sobol, follows what may be the last days in the lives of three brothers who were unknowingly signed up for dangerous drug-testing by their gambler father.

The story is one of family, the ties between brothers and redemption, Sobol said Wednesday.

The film stars Harvey Keitel as Duke White, Jason Jones as Nuts, Paulo Costanzo as Jacob and Scott Caan as Cal. The film also features J.K. Simmons and Tricia Helfer.

While the film is a dark comedy, "ultimately, there is a very optimistic message in the film of living life to the fullest and appreciating what's important," Sobol said.

The brothers each have strong archetypal personalities — Nuts, a fighter; Cal, a womanizer; and Jacob, a level-headed thinker — and each go about their pending deaths in equally different yet humorous ways.

While the audience may identify differently with the brothers, or even the woebegone father, Sobol saw the most of himself in Jacob.

"The character I indentify with most is Jacob simply because he is by far the most grounded and he definitely lives in the real world, but he also has this escapist fantasy that we all on some level have," Sobol said. "I believe that as writers, we're escapist by nature."

The 7 p.m. screening at the Regency Lido Theatre will be followed by the closing night gala. Tickets through the Newport Beach Film Festival are $75 for the film and party, and $50 for the party alone.

A portion of the ticket sales will benefit the American Red Cross Japan Tsunami and Earthquake Relief fund, said Riviera magazine Publisher Chris Gialanella.

The pop-up shops, which include national brands and local vendors, will remain open through the event giving the cobblestone street of Via Oporto something of a festive flea-market feel for the event.

Many of the pop-ups will offer special one-night-only deals and secondary events within their perspective stores.

"The Newport Beach Film Festival partners with a lot of media vehicles so we wanted to do something out of the ordinary," Gialanella said. "Not just for our clients, but to create an experience for all of Newport Beach as well."

Refreshments will be provided by 118 Degrees, Absolut, Perrier Lounge and Stella Artois. There will also be a live performance by alternative rock artist Benny Marchant.

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