She's In Portland


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

She's In Portland
"Wes' playful approach to day to day life and the warmth of the central friendship keeps all this from becoming too heavy."

At first glance, Marc Carlini's indie drama doesn't look too much, but misleading appearances are part of what it's concerned with. It follows longtime friends Wes (Tommy Dewey) and Luke (Fran├žois Arnaud), two thirtysomething guys who are dissatisfied with their lives for different reasons, as they travel along the California coast together on a quest to visit another old friend, Maggie (Nicole LaLiberte), in Portland. Years ago, Luke had a crush on Maggie and Wes is convinced that there was real magic between them, especially after meeting Maggie again at a party where she asks after him. He's convinced that the two meeting again could be the trigger Luke needs to get out of a rut and do something with his life. But it's apparent from that first party scene that not everything is rosy in Wes' life either, and the desire to get away for a while may be about more than just helping his friend.

Wes and Luke seem to inhabit a world made for men - a world where every woman they meet flirts with them and has nothing better to do with her time than spend it in their company, where even hitting on women in the street gets results and the objects of their desire never seem put off by their age. There's too much of this to be believable no matter how one looks at it, but the fantasy nevertheless has a purpose, with both men encountering disappointment as a result of accepting it too readily. Female viewers are likely to wince at their proprietary attitude to a couple of students they've known for barely 24 hours, but it is easy to believe that they'd be that clueless, and they're never rewarded for it. Luke, in fact, grows increasingly uncomfortable about Wes' attitude to women. Eventually, it's something that Wes will question in himself.

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This is a world in which women dispense not only entertainment but wisdom pretty much on demand, which is lucky, frankly, because Wes has none of his own and Luke doubts what he really ought to trust within himself. The core of this story, however, is not about the men's relationships with women but, rather, about the connection they have with one another. Wes' certainty that Luke is mismanaging his life and can do better reflects a deep insecurity about his own situation, whilst Luke's notion that Wes is a model of success comes under pressure long before he sees the full picture. This takes time because although they talk almost continually and reassure each other that they're always available to listen, neither of them communicates much about his real concerns.

Wes' playful approach to day to day life and the warmth of the central friendship keeps all this from becoming too heavy. There's plenty of beautiful scenery to look at and Carlini makes good use of some of the area's lesser-known landscapes. For Americans, Wes and Luke drive remarkably few miles in a day, so we get plenty of time to enjoy it. Often positioned on the clifftop or beach, beside the swelling waves of the Pacific, we are reminded of California and Oregon's special status as the last place reached by a large body of European settlers, the place where a culture convinced of its own supremacy finally reached its limit. Wes and Luke have taken their version of masculinity as far as it can go. To make progress now, they need to start rethinking the way they engage with life and with one another, to start focusing on what they really want instead of what they want other people to think of them.

Reviewed on: 19 Sep 2020
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She's In Portland packshot
Two friends drive along the California coast together to visit the girl one of them fell for in his youth.

Director: Marc Carlini

Writer: Patrick Alexander, Marc Carlini

Starring: Tommy Dewey, Ricco Ross, Minka Kelly, Vishesh Chachra

Year: 2020

Runtime: 101 minutes

Country: US


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