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Thursday, June 20, 2024

‘Sacramento’ Review: Charming Exploration Of Friendship

In Michael Angarano’s Sacramento, a heartfelt comedy-drama, the journey of self-discovery takes center stage. Co-written by Angarano and Chris Smith, this indie film embraces character-driven storytelling, preceding grandiosity for intimate moments. The movie is an exploration of friendship, fatherhood, and the struggles of mental health, wrapped in a blend of humor and sincerity.

The film opens with a light, almost idyllic scene: Rickey (Angarano) sunbathing by a lake, only to be interrupted by Tallie’s (Maya Erskine) cheerful call. Their playful interaction sets a fun tone, but the narrative quickly pivots to a year later, where we meet Glenn (Michael Cera). He’s meticulously built a baby crib that collapses under his weight. This symbolizes his crumbling confidence as he faces impending fatherhood. Rosie (Kristen Stewart), his supportive wife, reassures him, yet Glenn’s anxiety lingers. Rickey, with his domineering and carefree personality, contrasts sharply with Glenn’s high-strung demeanor.

When Rickey gatecrashes his group therapy sessions led by Dr. Murray (Rosalind Chao), his overpowering nature is on full display, and Dr. Murray swiftly ejects him from the group. He’s now out on his own and has to put all he’s learned to use. Glenn and Rickey’s deep friendship compels them to reunite over lunch, and Rickey observes Glenn’s pent-up panic and realizes how detached his friend has become. Seeking to rekindle their bond, the free-spirited slacker suggests they take a spontaneous road trip to Sacramento, to spread his father’s ashes. In truth, Rickey’s motive is simply to spend time with Glenn. The situation becomes even more complicated when Glenn reveals he’s been fired from his job, adding another layer of tension to their journey. 

The heart of Sacramento lies in the road trip that represents their quest to rise above rock bottom and reconnect with themselves and their paternal instincts. The dynamic between Rickey’s manipulative antics and Glenn’s reluctant compliance is portrayed with a delicate balance of humor and realism. Cera captures the essence of anxiety without resorting to clichés, offering a portrayal that feels both relatable and compassionate. The film underscores the importance of checking in on loved ones, a theme that resonates deeply in today’s fast-paced world. 

Cera’s performance as Rickey is a standout, utilizing his body language to great comedic effect. His portrayal of a mindful yet deeply flawed individual who masks his insecurities is both humorous and tragic. Erskine, extremely funny with her deadpan delivery, provides a perfect foil, grounding the film with her understated performance. However, Angarano and Smith’s script is full of memorable one-liners that hold it all together. The chemistry between the characters is genuine, driven by performances that feel lived-in and authentic. The film’s strongest moments are those quiet, introspective scenes where the characters’ vulnerabilities come to the forefront.

Speaking of Angarano, his direction leans heavily into the indie film aesthetic—simple settings, rich character development, and a focus on the subtleties of human interaction. The film feels like a project born out of genuine affection among family and friends, lending it an authenticity that resonates with audiences. However, Sacramento is not without its flaws. The constant back-and-forth between Rickey’s lies and Glenn’s internal struggles can feel repetitive. This narrative convolution sometimes detracts from the film’s emotional impact, which left me yearning for a more straightforward approach to the story’s core themes. 

Despite the shortcomings, Sacramento succeeds as a lighthearted fare. Its examination of strained friendships, the fear of inadequacy in impending fatherhood, and the importance of mental health conversations are handled with a good balance of care and humor. It may not be perfect, but its charm lies in its imperfections, much like the characters it portrays. For a film that invites you to laugh, reflect, traveling through Sacramento is a journey worth taking.

Title: Sacramento
Festival: Tribeca (U.S. Narrative Competition)
Directors: Michael Angarano
Screenplay by: Michael Angarano and Chris Smith
Cast: Michael Cera, Kristen Stewart, Michael Angarano, Maya Erskine
Running time: 1 hr 28 mins

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