One Last Thing
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One Last Thing

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There is little that can be as devastating to a family as to have a doctor tell you your child is going to die. Having an oncologist inform a mother that her son has cancer and only a short time to live is something that every parent fears. In ‘One Last Thing’ the topic is taken on with the right combination of humor and drama that makes this film a lot more than the poster would lead you to believe. The poster shows a mother looking at her son, he looks back over his shoulder to her and on his wall is a poster of a beautiful girl in a skimpy bikini. I am sure that many would see this and think that this film is just another teen sex romp. In doing so they would miss a film that actually rises above that genre. While this film admittedly has its flaws it does deserve far better than to be lumped in with the mindless, hormonal drivel that most films that have to do with teens and sex degrade into.

In the small working class town of Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania most families go through their entire lives without any significant drama. For 16 year old Dylan Jamieson (Michael Angarano) every aspect of his life has just changed. He has just received a diagnosis of terminal cancer. His doctor, Dr. Emerson (Brian Mitchell) has the empathy anyone would want under the circumstances but he is not able to afford much comfort to Dylan and his widowed mother Karen (Cynthia Nixon). Dylan is taking the death sentence a lot better than most would imagine. When he is approached by the United Wish Givers, a charity that gives a last wish to dying children, he consults his friends Ricky (Matt Bush) and Slap (Gideon Glick). At first he decides on a fishing trip with football star Jason O'Malley (Johnny Messner) but his friends have another idea. Jokingly, the suggestion is made that Dylan should ask for one hot night with famous super model Nikki Sinclair (Sunny Mabrey). Her picture has adorned his wall and now there might be a chance to actually meet her. When the time comes for Dylan to announce his wish on television he goes for and asks for a night with Nikki. This doesn’t fly well with either his mom or the foundation but the wish is out there. When Nikki’s agent, Arlene (Gina Gershon), hears about it she jumps at the idea. It seems that Nikki is getting a bad reputation as a nasty diva and this might be just the thing to help make for better publicity. A meeting is arranged and Nikki all but ignores the dying boy being more concerned about her own problems. Dylan and his pals don’t think this is enough and run off to New York City to track Nikki down and experience a bit of the Big Apple.

As mentioned this is better than the usual ‘I don’t want to die a virgin’ flick. Still, it does come across more as an after school special than a feature film. While the subject matter has some depth to it the dialogue often seems to be shallow. The plot is predicable with every twist broadcast to the audience. The video is also more in line with a didactic special than a theatrical film but in an odd way that actually works for it. It did give the feel that the audience was looking in at this boy’s life in a more intimate way. What did work was the juxtaposition of the two lead characters. Dylan is about to end his life before he could experience any of it. He knows that making a wish to loose his virginity is outrageous but after all what does he have to lose? What is his mother going to do, ground him? He may be dying of cancer but other than that he is a hormonally charged 16 year old boy and sex is something that can push out any rational thoughts. When he gets a chance to be prescribed medical marijuana he naturally shares his ‘treatment’ with Ricky and Slap. In other words Dylan is a normal teenage boy. In contrast to this is Nikki. She is a self centered diva that is spiraling out of control. When she is having her photo op with Dylan all she can go on about is the boyfriend that she dumped who subsequently committed suicide. She is at the verge of losing jobs because of her over indulgence in drugs and alcohol. The other models hate her. One possible reason may be she is so nasty she is not above shoving another model off the catwalk during a fashion show. Of course part of the predicable part of the story is we all know that somehow Dylan’s acceptance will rub off on Nikki. One thing that is a little disturbing is this is an illegal relationship. He is 16; she is in her early twenties. I doubt that Debbie LaFave would see this age difference in the same light as other might.

With a film that takes on such things as sex, death and redemption the cast is especially important. Michael Angarano does do a very good job playing Dylan. He can invoke the required pathos in the audience while keeping the humor from getting too dark. His delivery makes his role. He plays Dylan as a boy that may be dying but he plans on having some fun on his way out. Hopefully he will get a chance for some more substantial scripts in his future. Sunny Mabrey is perfect for the role of Nikki. In several interviews she stated that she could draw on her own experience as a model to mold Nikki. Mabrey does come across as a nice girl that had to work at being such a nasty diva. She is able to take her character on an arc that does seem natural. Nikki has everything that a young woman could ever want; fame, fortune and beauty. Yet, she has nothing of any truth worth in her life. Seeing Dylan and his optimism in the face of certain death shows her that what defines her life is meaningless. Cynthia Nixon shows far more pathos as the mother than she was ever allowed in Sex in the City. Her character is losing everything that she truly valued in life; first her husband now her son. She has a natural chemistry not own with her son but also his friends.

This is the sophomore effort for director Alex Steyermark. It is also a departure from his first opus, ‘Prey for Rock and Roll’. Steyermark started his career as the sound director for several Spike Lee films. He must have been watching since Steyermark does show talent at the helm. He paces this film well not letting the serious side of the subject matter drag things down while not permitting the humor to become too dark. This is a difficult balancing act but he does it.

One thing I have come to expect from Magnolia Home Entertainment is the release of films you might not have heard too much about. They pay attention to the smaller films that while they don’t have the huge budgets the big guys have they do exhibit talent. This film does well in its translation to DVD. The video is in 1.78:1 although it is not enhanced for 16:9 televisions. The color palette is effective but not startling. The contrast was a touch muted but over all the video holds up. The Dolby 5.1 audio is focused on the front speakers with the rear speakers used almost exclusively for ambience. The front channel separation was very good. There are a few extras including a commentary by the director. He goes into some of the difficulties in fusing drama with comedy. The outtakes and bloopers are funny but fairly usual. This is film that may not be the best thing for the younger set but older teens and adults will come away with an enjoyable evening.

Posted 5/25/06

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