Classic Indie Spotlight On… ONE LAST THING…
STARS: MICHAEL ANGARANO, CYNTHIA NIXON, SUNNY MABREY, JOHNNY MESSNER, GINA GERSHON, BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL, MATT BUSH, GIDEON GLICK, MICHAEL RISPOLI
DIRECTOR: ALEX STEYERMARK
"When you are born, you cry, and the world is happy; when you die, the world cries, and you’re happy."
One day soon, you’ll be hearing a name in the same breath with "Sean Penn", "Johnny Depp", "Orlando Bloom", and other similar names, household names all. And that name is Michael Angarano.
The 18 year old actor has slowly been gaining notice over the course of the last several years, but now, he’s poised to break out in a big way. After really gaining notice and capturing hearts (and PNR’s Poppy Award for 2005 Best Supporting Actor) as ill-fated Sid in the criminally underrated Lords Of Dogtown last year, then revving up his recognition factor in Disney’s sleeper teen comedy hit Sky High, he went back to do a few more indie films, and this is the first of those to hit theatres.
Angarano plays Dylan, a 16-year-old dying of brain cancer who is invited onto a TV Show run by the United Wish group, which fulfills the wishes of terminally ill children, to say he wants to go fishing with his favorite football player. But once on TV, after the press, tv cameras, and football player Jason O’Malley (a brilliantly understated Johnny Meissner) are in the studio, Dylan makes another wish. Goaded on by his buddies and slightly stoned from his medical marijuana, Dylan announces that his real wish is to spend a weekend alone with supermodel Nikki Sinclair (Sunny Mabrey), setting off a press firestorm, and embarrassing his mother (an equally brilliant turn by Cynthia Nixon), but getting a hearty chuckle from the pro ball player.
Nikki, whose career is in decline from her bitchy, self-destructive behavior, sees the news report, and is aghast that her agent has arranged for her to at least meet Dylan. When at his home for a visit that lasts all of three minutes, she scribbles her phone number on her photo card and tells the Pennsylvania teenager to give her a call if he ever makes it to New York. At first crestfallen, and with his condition worsening, he determines to make it to New York to see her. Bankrolled by the football player, who has taken a friendly interest in both Dylan and his widowed mom, Dylan and his two buddies head off to the Big Apple to track Nikki down.
I’ve read some critics who have said that this movie carries no more weight than an afterschool special. In some parts, that could be true, but in other parts (such as when Dylan’s two buddies hit a stripclub arranged for them by a Omni hotel employee), it hits with stuff you’d never see on one of those saccharine shows.
Angarano is brilliant as young Dylan, who’s fighting desperately to beat his cancer because at just 16, he doesn’t want to die. He misses his late father (an uncredited Ethan Hawke in a role unlike those that most are familiar with him for) and sees him and talks to him in dreams and visions, just as boozing, drunk Nikki sees and talks to her late fiancee in hers. And its Dylan’s determination and Nikki’s sudden realization of what she’s become, made thanks to Dylan’s wish and all the publicity surrounding it, that eventually brings the two together for something very special. Dylan’s mom is his best friend and best cheerleader, and, knowing how hard her life is now because of his illness and his wish, he takes her out to the fanciest restaurant in town, paid for by his caring, friendly oncologist (played wonderfully in a small role by Broadway vet Brian Stokes Mitchell, probably the first time he’s been back in scrubs since Trapper John MD ended, heh heh heh). His two buddies Ricky (Matt Bush) and Slap (Gideon Gilck) are always by his side, and although it’s not actually stated until the very end, they are also trying to deal with the fact that they know they are about to lose one of their best friends.
Another focus of the movie, driven home by several scenes, is Dylan’s lack of faith. Perhaps because he’s so young to be fighting such a horrible disease, Dylan has given up his belief in God and the Devil, and it takes a chance meeting with an eastern mystic artist during his trip to New York City to bring his eyes open to spirituality again, and even then with some skepticsm.
Some of the plotlines aren’t hard to figure out as you go through the movie, but it’s played by the entire cast with such power and belief that you will be totally engrossed. So when there is a surprise or two (and there are a couple), they hit you that much harder. And the movie has some uproariously funny moments as well.
The surprise dual-scene ending – sad but expected, and then happy and unexpected – is sure to leave even the most hardened sports jock out there with tears streaking their face.
I remember someone calling this movie "a jock’s Lifetime movie" after it appeared at last fall’s Toronto Film Festival, and I think that hits it right on the mark. You share Dylan’s fears of dying, his pain and suffering of his illness, and ultimately, the bilss of what it means to dream a dream and then try to make it come true.
Although only getting a limited release for about the next week in just major cities (in fact, it will be out on DVD in just two weeks!), if you get a chance to see it on the big screen, do so. One Last Thing…will send your hearts soaring…and breaking…with some of the most outstanding,and ultimately rewarding, performances of the year.
SCORE: 4 1/2 (OUT OF FIVE)
Originally published on Popcorn N Roses, May 2006