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Five Star Day
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by brianorndorf

"The stars have a point"
4 stars

Taking on the world of astrology is an appealing launching point for the drama “Five Star Day.” Numerous movies have made the effort to celebrate the discipline, using the stars to backdrop tales of love and woe. However, “Five Star Day” has a bone to pick with the industry, with writer/director Danny Buday using a confrontational tone to uncover a rather tender story of human connection, following one man as he seeks to unearth a purpose for astrology, to test its validity in an increasingly cynical world.

Jake (Cam Gigandet) is having a horrible week. While his horoscope suggests great success and satisfaction coming his way, the reality is much more depressing. Losing his girlfriend, his car, and facing a critical grade at school, Jake has had it with the fallacy of astrology, working on a presentation that seeks to disprove the practice. Traveling around America on the hunt for those with a similar birth story, Jake encounters lost souls facing even greater hardship. There’s Sarah (Jena Malone), a struggling single mother who can’t seem to shake her crackhead boyfriend; Yvette (Brooklyn Sudano), a medical professional harboring intense guilt; and Wesley (Max Hartman), an Atlantic City lounge singer facing troubling personal problems. Interviewing and interacting with these people, Jake begins to comprehend the power of universal forces, helping him to cope with the radical change in his life.

“Five Star Day” is structured as an episodic journey, trailing Jake around the country as he looks to expose invisible ties, taking him down a path of introductions, meeting the three individuals he plans to employ as his proof that astrology is a farce. While the premise opens itself up for wild swings of comedy and melodrama, Buday keeps a sensible, meditative tone as Jake goes about his travels, gradually coming to appreciate the intergalactic forces he’s so intent on kicking in the teeth. It’s a leisurely film, yet “Five Star Day” finds a comfortable feel of peace, able to juggle numerous characters without becoming lost or overwhelmed, with each story handed ample moments to shock and settle in, though Sarah’s arc of panic assumes greater importance, used to introduce warmth into the picture as Jake comes to connect with the besieged young mother, compelled to help out with her complicated domestic situation.

While not a feature of intense dramatic movement, “Five Star Day” instead discovers lovely moments of intimacy and confession, backed by a soothing musical personality that deploys plentiful soundtrack selections to assist the reflective mood. Buday also has a likable handle on the progression of acceptance within Jake, using scenes of travel to create alone time for the character as he processes his discoveries. The fluidity is aided by Gigandet, who easily delivers the best performance of his career here, finally permitted a chance to play something other than a smug gym rat or spoiled hero. He wears vulnerability well, matched superbly by Malone, who also offers the screen a satisfying articulation of thawing ice. Buday guides his cast well, hitting the proper emotional points without overdoing the hysterics. Banter is forced (Jake and Sarah engage in a “Smile-Off” that’s groan-worthy), but there’s sincerity here that’s unexpected.

“Five Star Day” isn’t an exceptional feature, but its sensitivity and dedication to the comfort of strangers is quite appealing. It tenders a sweet message about human attachment and kindness, creating a gentle ambiance that’s consistently engaging.

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originally posted: 10/06/11 15:05:41
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Newport Beach Film Festival For more in the 2010 Newport Beach Film Festival series, click here.

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