Around the Fire
Some movies appear very familiar. Youve seen them many times before. Lets face it, most plots have been used already. One very well traveled story line is the young man coming of age with sex, drugs and rock and roll. Around the Fire once again tackles this well traversed road. Although there are some new twists much of what the film contains has been done before. Simon Harris (Devon Sawa) is about to enter his final year of high school. He gets in some minor problems that impel his father and stepmother to send him to a boarding school. Once there he falls in with Andrew (Eric Mabius). Andrew is into concerts and drugs and introduces Simon to a group of hippie holdovers. (I though this film was set in the Sixties until I saw a CD play and a Class of 1996 sign). Included in this wayward band of hippies is Jennifer (American Pies Tara Reid) and Trace (Colman Domingo) the gay drug dealer. Much of the story is told in retrospective from Simons burnt out days in a drug rehab center. The stream of consciousness is very similar to films like Girl , Interrupted. The movie bounces from past to present with Simons hair length as the key indicator of when the scene set. Simon falls into dealing acid and finds his life spiraling out of control resulting in the alienation of his parents and even isolation from his girlfriend Jennifer. Like the main character, the story drifts along but remains better focused than many films of this genre.
The acting here is better than normal although not up to contemporary, independent films standards. Tara Reid was excellent as the girl that grows up while her boyfriend seems to grow farther away. She has very good control over her performance. I sincerely hope that she starts to get better scripts to showcase her talents. Sawa played his role a bit too flat to make the performance work. He could have been a bit more extreme as his characters life begins to lose control. Domingo provides a gem of a performance. He is the catalyst that stirs up the action although nothing much seems to affect him personally. We have all met people like this and unfortunately some of us were all too influenced by them. All in all the actors do their jobs well but there was generally room for improvement.
This is the freshman effort for director John Jacobsen. He has potential that should be very interesting to see how he develops. His camera use is nice, relating the story with interest and able to keep you watching. This is difficult with all the flashbacks, time shifts and memory shots the story requires. Jacobsen did an excellent job of selecting music for the soundtrack, it contains the Grateful Dead, Bob Marley and many other of my personal favorites. The only problem here is everything seems to point to this being a movie about the sixties that the viewer can feel a little let down when we are made certain that the story is in the mid-nineties. Perhaps as Mr. Jacobsen matures in his craft he will discover that audiences like to know when a movie takes place.
A usual for A-Pix the disc quality is above average. There were some video artifacts in my copy that were not so often that they interfered too much with the enjoyment of the film. Generally the anamorphic 1.85:1 video was crisp and clear. The artifacts that I did see appeared to be compression problems. The throughput of the film was a far better than average 9.9 mbps, way above the DVD average. The sound was incredible! The soundtrack not only presents some of the best musicians but the 5.1 sound literally encircles the room. If you are looking for a good little film this one will be worth it.