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2 reviews, 2 user ratings

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Five Stages of Beer, The
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by Scott Weinberg

"An affable indie amalgam of Swingers and Cheers"
4 stars

A flick shot in less than a week by entirely unpolished filmmakers is an instant recipe for Snooze Patrol, right? One might suspect as much, which is what makes Brian Mix's surprisingly witty movie such an out-of-left-field hit. Maybe not a homer, but certainly a ground-rule double at the very least. And for a flick produced with not much more than sweat, heart and credit card invoices, that's a pretty impressive feat.

Curious to learn how glamorous the world of indie filmmaking is? Get this story: along with the rest of the HBS/EFC cadre, I was sitting in our Sundance lodgings, stuffing my face with waffles when the doorbell rang. There was that nebulous little stare at each other silently thing going on as each of us expected the other to say "Oh, I ordered more waffles."

I opened the door and saw two men. "Hello," I said, to which they responded similarly. Before too long, Brian and Mark were asking if we were those Critic Guys and handing us a screener of their film.

That's right, the writer and the director of a movie...were trudging through the rather nasty weather of Park make sure that a trio of Online a chance to see their movie.

This tells me two things:

1. These guys are proud of their movie...and they're prepared to work hard to get some word out.

2. When you're just starting out in the biz, talent and passion just aren't enough. You gotta pound the pavement, too.

The five of us chatted around a bit about movies and snow and waffles before Brian and Mark said goodbye and headed out into the frosty mountains.

Oz looks at Erik and I and says:

"They were cool guys. I really hope the movie doesn't suck!"

Wise words from a burly Australian, because nobody wants to write a review of someone's very first feature using cruel and overly critical opinions.

Fortunately that's not the case, as The Five Stages of Beer is as scrappy and likable as it is clearly stretched upon a paper-thin budget. And if you don't have a lot of money to spend, you better damn well write a plucky little screenplay. Words are free; the key is stringing together some interesting ones.

The flick is mainly about an kind-hearted schlub named Dennis who returns home to find his apartment empty, his wife gone and his ego totally obliterated. He immediately retreats to his comfy neighborhood watering hole. Here Dennis finds a collection of pals who do everything they can to tease, taunt, cajole or force him back unto the horse that threw him. Dennis needs to get out and find a nice girl.

Mick is Dennis' best friend and a certifiable Ladies' Man. With the assistance of his licentious buddy, Dennis sticks his toe back into the dating pool, with a variety of women, and with varying degrees of success. And lack thereof.

Essentially (and here's where I repeat myself for a second) the movie feels like a 50-50 concoction of Swingers and Cheers, yet it's clear that the screenwriters admire their inspirations. Like, as opposed to simply ripping them off.

The cast of unknowns is relatively indie-green (though clearly in possession of some talent), yet the handful of lead performers loosen up as the movie goes on. Plus the dialogue (save for a few barside boners) is crisp and witty enough to help the actors out on numerous occasions. The Five Stages of Beer isn't exactly a wall-to-wall yukfest, although there are a few moments that earn some chuckles. (A particularly well-timed gag occurs during one of those moments when the loud music suddenly stops and one character is left screaming something quite humiliaring.)

What elevates this one above many of its ilk is that The Five Stages of Beer is in no way content to wallow in that angst-ridden woe-cycle that so many of these films employ. Dennis naviagtes through his post-breakup malaise with equal parts misery and hopefulness as the movie balances capably between pathos and profanity.

The Moral of the Story is this: if two filmmakers come to your hotel and ask you to review their movie, you should probably do it. Especially if you end up enjoying the damn thing! Good job, guys. Don't let me down with the next one!

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originally posted: 02/10/04 23:57:51
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User Comments

1/27/04 Joe Banks Made me laugh, seen a LOT worse 4 stars
1/01/04 Itlan I laughed and got caught up in the story and it kept my mind off work for a couple of hours 4 stars
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Directed by
  Brian Mix

Written by
  Brian Mix
  Mark Yturralde

  Jenya Lano
  Stacy Burnham
  Sam Upton
  Stacey Branscombe
  Frank Lauria II
  Vince Cuseo

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