When Voices Carry

Movie Title: Alphonso Bow (2010)
Spoilers: none


What opens with an oddly out-of-the-box music selection and an urban drive in Los Angeles to a restaurant is merely a stage-setter for where the rest of the movie will take place.

Alphonso Bow is about two very different friends who meet at On The Border and talk. The entire movie takes place in the restaurant. They get lunch and they ramble on about the same worn-out topics like two close friends or siblings would over a beer or a cup of coffee. The value, which can seem so pitifully non-existent in the vessel of a movie, must be appreciated at least on a sentimental level.

These two friends, Frank (Michael “Changeling” Dempsey) and Alphonso Bow (Michael “The Nine” Pierce), have a very patient waitress (Kasey Buckley) in a restaurant with a way-too-careful-not-to-offend management that is hesitant to say anything to their loud, obnoxious guests whose voices carry. They should say something—you keep waiting for them to do so. Then the two are met by Samantha (Kate “General Hospital” Rodger) who blends beautifully to make this trying trio of the socially unaware even better.

They order dinner, and even that is an ordeal. For over an hour, the conversations change with each new sideline subject that gets brought up...from life on other planets to 17-year-old cats to 7-year-old kids who don't wipe their asses. With a well-placed use of profanity, the script is finely written and will prompt some laughs just from watching the shear idiocy of inconsiderate blow-hards being what they are.

Frank and Alphonso's personalities compliment each other’s because they are so different. Frank is a brick salesman. Al is an ex-male-exotic-dancer. The two come off like an uncle and nephew. Together, they are sure to get on the nerves of the waitress and everyone else who comes in to eat and ends up having to move tables to get away from them, but they will get on your nerves too before it's all over. The loud, pseudo-intellectual, and opportunistic character of Alphonso is tolerable – even appreciable – up until the halfway point. His sustained and soon grading verbosity is that of a favorite Saturday Night Live character.

What could have been perceived as an insult to On The Border (or perhaps a plug?) is the film’s implied and laugh-worthy reminder that there really are people this annoying...in restaurants, movie theaters, and waiting rooms the world over...standing by, just waiting to frustrate the living hell out of you. We've all been there—or been the guilty parties.

Director Lije Sarki and Nut Bucket Films gives us a peaks-and-valleys comedy that is seldom “laugh out loud” funny, but surprisingly effective at fighting off that expected sense of boredom you get from seeing a trailer that just doesn't succeed at generating a sense of anticipation. But Alphonso Bow is not just non-boring; it generates the same awkward feelings as actually being in a restaurant with an annoying person who draws way too much attention to himself, purely from being an insolent and crude blabbermouth.

Intriguingly choreographed, the softly disturbing feel makes Alphonso Bow a curiously attractive viewing experience. As though the title is called for, it is the best restaurant conversation ever filmed in the history of movies.

Alphonso Bow is an excellently well-made independent project, which should perhaps be required viewing for up-and-comers in the filmmaking field. The question is, what audience would go out of their way to see such a film? A film must do more than be artistic and unique, conceived in the loins of creative brilliance—it must be relevant. It is difficult to say how or to whom Alphonso Bow will measure up in this regard.



Grade: C+ (2 ½ stars)
Rated: No MPAA rating
Director: Lije Sarki
Summary: A womanizing ex-male-exotic-dancer and a brick salesman have lunch and loudly debate controversial topics.   
Starring: Jeffrey Pierce "Alphonso Bow," Michael Dempsey "Frank," Kate Rodger "Samantha," Kasey Buckley "Waitress"
Genre: Comedy / Drama