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See You Next Tuesday
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by Jay Seaver

"You're nice enough, but I don't think I'll be seeing you again."
3 stars

SCREENED AT BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL 15: There's a guy on a mailing list I subscribe to who tends to judge movies in large part based on how much he agrees with how the characters act. I suspect most of us do so a little more than we'd like, and "See You Next Tuesday" certainly had me doing it: I hated watching this movie a little more every time a character did something stupid and self-destructive, which means that by the end I'd worked up some good anger. On reflection, some of that reflects a well-executed presentation of imperfect characters, although I don't know if that gets me from disliking this movie to actual positive feelings.

The movie is mostly the story of Mona (Eleanore Pienta), who is fairly upbeat despite reasons not to be: Most of the other employees at the neighborhood market where she works pick on her, she's in her third trimester but the father of the baby is so absent as to not be worth mentioning, and her best friend is her mother May (Dana Eskelson), a recovering alcoholic who leans on Mona for support and hasn't spoken to her other daughter Jordan (Molly Plunk) in a few years. She seems to be doing okay, considering all that, but she's actually just a couple steps away from falling to pieces.

Even if the movie can be frustrating in a number of other ways, it's at least got an impressive turn by Eleanore Pienta at its center. Mona enters the screen fully formed, working-class but not showing that via the usual ignorance or combative nature, instead tending toward a sort of worn persevering nature. She's pretty easy to like rather than judge, and as the movie goes on and Mona goes into a downward spiral, Pienta does a fine job of conveying the character's desperation to keep from falling down completely. It's easy enough to remember why one liked her in the beginning when she's being somewhat alienating toward the end, and not everyone can manage that.

She's not the only one doing good work in the mostly-female cast, either. Dana Eskelson may be playing a somewhat more well-worn character with the raspier voice and slightly more pronounced air of cluelessness, but she doesn't descend into parody and does give the audience enough to believe May's capable of better when called upon. Molly Plunk's Jordan is occasionally a little tough to crack as an individual, but Keisha Zollar does a good job as her girlfriend - she's the voice-of-reason character but Zollar manages to give Sylve her own eccentricity and personality as much from looks and tone as anything.

Good acting can only impress as far as the material, though, and the story is rather frustrating. It's basically a string of characters spontaneously doing things that make their situations more difficult, and while in some ways that sort of activity is the domestic drama's bread and butter, it works best when things don't quite come out of the blue, and that's the trouble here: The characters don't dig their holes on-screen through bad but understandable decisions, but massive overreactions in areas that haven't been particularly set up as weak points. As much as the cast may do well portraying the reaction to those situations, getting there so often seems forced.

Writer/director Drew Tobia sometimes seems to lack focus in other ways, too. As much as this is basically Mona's story, it takes a big detour toward Jordan & Sylve in the second half, while Mona's issues and irresponsibility become much more broadly played without necessarily seeming to get more serious. Some of the humor works, but a number of gags go a long time without much payoff.

Some of these complaints feel petty, since it's not like there's any shortage of dysfunctional families or people who dig themselves into these sort of holes in real life, and movies don't necessarily need clearer cause-and-effect than real life. Still, "See You Next Tuesday" often comes across as a case where even if one doesn't like what the movie does, the cast undeniably does its part quite well.

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originally posted: 04/06/13 15:45:33
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Boston Underground Film Festival For more in the 2013 Boston Underground Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  Drew Tobia

Written by
  Drew Tobia

  Eleanore Pienta
  Dana Eskelson
  Molly Plunk
  Keisha Zollar

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