Flickhead
Film Review
By Ray Young

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Sunnyvale

A film by James Ricardo

Visit the Official Site

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Sunnyvale

2005—The Company Pictures—78 minutes
Written and directed by James Ricardo.
Cinematography by Christopher Gosch and William Persaud. Edited by Mr. Gosch.
With James Ricardo, April Wade, Ute Werner,
Jesselynn Desmond, Samantha Turk, Gina DeVettori,
Mark Wood, Ellen Hughes, Peder Fedde,
Michael L. Connelly, Heidemarie Fuentes and Hutchi Hancock.
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    As of this writing, Sunnyvale, the very independent comedy written and directed by James Ricardo, has yet to be released. It’s a picture that falls into a niche that doesn’t sell as easily as, say, action or horror. The romantic relationship comedy is a genre which the so-called ‘inde’ movement has flattened into predictability. Most of the time lacking major stars, their common flaw is the reliance on excessive dialogue (often chatterbox declarations of ‘feelings’) delivered in blank-face monotone (think: Hal Hartley), a modish gimmick requiring an artist’s skill and subtlety to pull it off with any degree of success (think: Hal Hartley).
    Which brings us to Ricardo, who travels without such lofty credentials. He’s concocted a geek sex fantasy about a reclusive junk-food junkie, porno addict and self-professed loser (played by the director himself, who resembles the young Jeff Daniels) blossoming into an unlikely stud muffin with babes to spare. Lacking the poseur cynicism of Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino and what now passes for ‘smart’ dialogue, the conversations of Sunnyvale resonate with the cliquey banter of a campus rathskeller on Saturday night.

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James Ricardo and Ute Werner groove on gay porn.
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    A breezy, woozy confection, Sunnyvale benefits from its talented and predominantly female cast, who add zing to lines and setups shaded by the screenplay’s male perspective. The stream of questions they pose to Ricardo—whose character is appropriately nicknamed Opie—yield less a portrait of the man than a batch of hip comebacks and silly philosophical bons mots you may want to have memorized for your next cocktail party—provided you try to dazzle people with them well after midnight.
    Playing the pot-smoking bi-sexual neighbor, April Wade elevates Opie’s doldrums as a lively and nearly endearing bed buddy. In an all-too-brief flashback and subplot concerning a conspiracy rigged by a former girlfriend, Gina DeVettori is a toothsome dish warranting more screen time. (Pregnancy may have forced the actress into early retirement from the production.) But the film takes off when Ute Werner enters the fray. Tough and glamorous, her blond-in-black-leather erotic fascist displays a photogenic and gifted performer, who quickly develops an amusing onscreen repartee with Ricardo as her ‘bitch.’ In the other roles, Jesselynn Desmond is suitably disturbing as a nympho packing a vibrator and a gun; and sexy Samantha Turk appears out of nowhere in an amusing, unexplained bit of slapstick that could use a little fleshing out.
    Fond of staring vacantly into space or pontificating on the pointlessness of existence, Opie uses plastic dildo dispensers for squirting out condiments and hand lotion. This and other gay innuendo provide yet more material than Sunnyvale can possibly take on. Limited budgets and shooting schedules—not the talent involved—undoubtedly stunted the picture’s growth. There are qualities floating around here that are both flavorful and amusing…and have one wishing the film were longer and more developed.

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