Thursday, July 18, 2024

Movie Review (Tribeca 2024): ‘Sacramento’ is Charming But Lacking

Director: Michael Angarano
Writers: Michael Angarano, Christopher Nicholas Smith
Stars: Kristen Stewart, Rosalind Chao, Michael Angarano

Synopsis: Rickey, an energetic and free-spirited young man who convinces Glenn, his long-time friend who’s settled into domestic life, to go on an impromptu road trip from Los Angeles to Sacramento.

Whenever I think of my small group of close-knit friends, I can’t help but feel lucky. I look back to a time when I considered my friend group to be massive. Growing up, I was a loud mouth who always wanted to crack jokes. But at the end of the day, I had very few people who I could actually consider a friend. We did everything together, but now, almost two decades later, we chat maybe once a year, and it’s the social pleasantries of saying happy birthday or something similar. As I said, to have the friends I have now makes me feel very lucky. A few of them I’ve known for half of my life at this point. But whenever I think back on those past friendships, I can’t help but feel a sense of yearning. Your first friends in life. They’ll mean something to you forever. But of course, as we grow up, we become different people in a way. And do those new sets of people still have what held the friendship together in the first place? With his latest directorial effort, Sacramento, the multi-hyphenate Michael Angarano makes the attempt.

I use that phrase because, more often than not, a lot of relationships are maintained through making an attempt. The effort of reaching out goes a long way. For a society that has now found itself structured around these instant communicators in our pocket, why do we sometimes find it so hard to reach out? It has never been easier in the history of human existence. But even still, we often don’t send that text or make that call. And I can write that not only from personal experience, but can confidently say that many of us have shared a similar sentiment. There may be a reason for not reaching out. But it could also just be the simple passage of time. That’s the case for Glenn (Michael Cera) and Rickey (Angarano), two lifelong friends who have grown apart in recent years. This may seem like a shock to Rickey, but Glenn tells Rosie (Kristen Stewart), his wife, the reason behind his choices. Beyond time merely pulling them apart, Glenn and Rosie are expecting a baby. And Glenn merely feels that Rickey has not made it to that stage of his life yet. Angarano plays the role of an immature free spirit. It’s not difficult to imagine he’s never really held a steady job or a long-term relationship. Part of it certainly stems from personal choice and feeling like he’d rather enjoy what life has to offer. And while we can still do that at any point in our lives, there does come a time when we need to accept the new responsibilities that come with time. From how we meet Rickey, it’s clear that he’s not ready for that commitment to maturity.

We first see him, alone in the woods, sitting naked on a chair. He hears somebody shout to him about his exposed genitalia with jest in her voice. They are separated by a lake, and decide to meet in the middle. Rickey jumps in without a second thought, only for Tallie (Angarano’s real-life wife, Maya Erskine) to change her mind. This is the story of how Rickey meets Tallie. We cut to hours later, and the two are sharing casual banter while quickly realizing they have nothing in common. But that doesn’t matter, because it’s apparent this is a whirlwind meeting of two people who have undeniable chemistry. We jump in time a year, and while Tallie is nowhere to be seen, this idea of a whirlwind relationship is again seen between Rickey and Glenn. The former shows up, unannounced, and asks Glenn to lunch. Glenn, a clear bundle of nerves and panic-related anger issues, is flabbergasted. This is added to when he sees that Rickey is driving the car they seemingly grew up driving together. It’s been all fixed up at a cost greater than the initial purchase price. It’s here we begin to feel sad for Rickey. Glenn merely wants to get the lunch over with, but Angarano plays the character in such a way that you can’t help but empathize with. He’s forcefully holding onto whatever friendships he can in whatever ways he can manage. One gets the sense that Glenn is the only person left in his life. And while Glenn and Rosie are expecting a child, it seems as if Glenn isn’t much different than Rickey. Rosie repeatedly says as much throughout the film, voicing her frustrations with Glenn’s inability to care for himself, or his lack of releases in the form of other relationships.

While this does feel like a film solely interested in the dynamics of adult male friendships, the ways in which Erskine and Stewart are relegated to the outskirts is a bit upsetting. They’re obviously both very talented and have great screen presence whenever in the film. But one can’t help but feel their characters are underserved. Stewart for example, is in maybe 5-7 minutes of the film, mostly to poke fun at Cera’s character. But in this comedy lies the opportunity for poignant observations from partners about immature men who feign having it all together. It just feels as if their lack of screen time undercuts the overall drama of the script at large. To flesh out both Rosie and Tallie a bit more would likely go a long way in making the entire cast of characters feel more three-dimensional. But even with such flaws, Sacramento is constantly charming, and consistently funny. 

Angarano and Cera play well off one another, and the film sticks with them for a large swath of its short runtime. It also plays up the pains that come with aging, even if we still may be considered young. I personally felt seen when Cera, fighting a hangover, details how he’s “only a man” when relaying the three beers and two shots he had. Sacramento examines this idea of aging affecting us all in different ways in ways that are often interesting, but always comical. Time may pull us apart, and aging certainly takes its toll on us all. But it’s with the company we keep, and the memories we have made over a lifetime thus far that will help us weather the storm in the end. Maybe we can revisit those connections we once held but let fall to the wayside. Maybe those once-a-year dinners or quarterly texts could grow into something beautiful again.

Sacramento celebrated its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in the U.S. Narrative Competition section. More information on the film can be found right here.

Grade: C

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