Directed by Marty Lang and starring Gary Ploski (SOLOMON GRUNDY, OBJECTS OF TIME) and Emily Morse (TO DYE FOR, TIME’S UP), RISING STAR depicts an every-man insurance adjuster Chris (Ploski) who, upon a chance meeting with enigmatic Alyza (Morse) at a party thrown by Chris’ friend Brent (Michael Barra), wakes up to find that they had maybe-or-maybe-not slept together. Through a confluence of events they end up spending the next day together, visiting various landmarks in and around Hardford, CT, which this film is very much a love letter to. We, as the audience, follow them on their journey, learning about their lives as the film plays on. We learn that Chris desires to be an astronomer and isn’t fulfilled with his life, and it may have been the breakup of another girl that has made it difficult for him to stargaze again, and we also learn that Alyza is hiding secrets of her own.
It’s clear that RISING STAR will appeal to other filmmakers and artists of all sorts who are struggling to get by in their day jobs while letting their real dreams pass them by, or become just something they do on the side. The excuse of “I have to pay the rent somehow” is very clear in this movie and Alyza’s bohemian character is the counterpart to that argument. She lets the audience, and by extension any potential artists or filmmakers watching, that there is a way to have your cake and eat it too. The funny thing is that most of the sentiments conveyed in the film could have been said in half the time, but watching both Morse and Ploski in this movie is half the fun.
The cinematography is very vanilla. That isn’t to say that it’s bad, but just not anything extraordinary. Occasionally there are shots that feel very amateur, like they were shot completely separate from the film and by a different cinematographer. The audio feels very layered, and there is one scene in particular that the ADR is really rough on, and all of the outdoor scenes are obviously dubbed over, but otherwise everyone is intelligible and the emotion of the characters come through.
There is a very strong and positive message in this film, and it doesn’t have to beat the audience over the head with it. However it could have been woven into the overall narrative a little bit better as you can see it coming a mile away from the cookie-cutter characters. The chemistry between the two leads works well and Alyza is the kind of girl that anyone would give up a day of work to hang out with. There are many touching moments between the two of them and the overall conclusion to the film is satisfactory, even if you see it coming.