Yesterday, Sept. 26, The 2014 Milwaukee Film Festival kicked off their Passport to Mexico program with Francisco Franco Alba’s “Last Call.” The audience was treated to opening entertainment as the United Community Center’s Youth and Children Latino Arts Strings Program and Mariachi band performed two songs to help celebrate the festival’s focus on Mexican cinema.
“Last Call” follows the cast and crew of a new Mexican theatrical production of “Caligula” as the director makes drastic changes, lead actors are hired and fired, the producer constantly has a drink in her hand, the assistant director frantically runs from place to place to keep things together, among many other mishaps. This unique perspective into the theater takes the audience into a crazed world that proves to be both humorous and genuine.
If “Last Call” could be summed up in one word, it would be chaos. While theatrical productions present a well-polished version of what takes months to prepare and plan out, “Last Call” seeks to bring the struggle and mania in planning to light.
It’s also very genuine in the way that it presents it’s information. There are many storylines going on at once and, while that could be too messy and hard to follow in some films, Alba makes it work in how she slowly reveals each character’s story without needing full outright explanations. The director of the play is certainly the most prominent character, and yet we seamlessly flow in and out of every life involved in the theatrical production, which is no easy feat.
These multiple storylines initially take a moment to adjust and catch up to as this is a film heavily reliant on timing, but once you catch on to the pace you don’t think twice about it. Diving head-first into numerous characters’ lives may take a moment, especially when the film isn’t in your native dialect, but it’s a short adjustment to make.
One of the great things about taking a peek into so many characters’ lives is that it allows the audience to have their pick of who they relate to best. Those who cannot connect with the neurotic play director who risks it all for the sake of art, there is a wide selection of diverse characters that are sure to make a connection.
It follows that with so many diverse characters and storylines, there is a range in comedic style throughout the film. “Last Call” is primarily driven on quick, dry humor that relies heavily on timing, but there are certainly characters that function on adult humor, awkward humor, slapstick, and many other forms of comedy. In this way, “Last Call” truly is a comedy for all tastes.
Then again, there are moments of drama and pathos in “Last Call,” and the one connection between these characters- the play. Everything drains back to their struggles and purpose as thespians. Even if you’ve never been involved in a play in your life, it translates off the stage and through the screen to whatever we define ourselves by and for which we give all of ourselves.
“Last Call” will have two more screenings at The Milwaukee Film Festival- one at 1:45 p.m. on Sept. 29 at the Times Cinema and another on Sept. 30 at 2 p.m. at the Fox Bay Cinema Grill. Tickets can be purchased online or at the Milwaukee Film Box Office.