Patrick Rodio aims high with this $8,000 video feature, but alas the technical problems of shooting on DV combined with a number of quite bad actors don't give Better Days a chance to shine.
Rodio (who wrote and directed) has built a Big Chill-style ensemble melodrama about a number of Philadelphia twentysomethings whose lives are pretty much all in the toilet. One couple is getting married soon, but each is having his or her doubts and temptations. One friend is cheating incessantly on his wife -- and even her announcement that she's pregnant does little to change it. Another friend is just a big loser, pining for the redhead he sees on his morning jog. There's gossip, there's hair-tearing, and there's lots and lots of talking.
For two hours, Rodio's characters hash it all out, pining for those "better days." If they all weren't so whiny (and if they could deliver dialogue better than a fourth grader at his school play) we might care about some of that. But as it is, the only thing that sets the characters apart are their hair styles. And they are surprisingly difficult to either identify with or root for.
While Rodio's $8,000 is all on the screen, telling a two-hour tale of this magnitude and earnestness really requires more -- better lighting (it seems like every other scene is backlit, making the characters even less recognizable), better editing (those fade-to-blacks are an obvious crutch), better use of extras (why does someone sit right next to someone else on an otherwise empty train? Oh, as a plot device...), and better grain on the film (anything to make this look like more like a movie about a wedding and less like a wedding home video).
While some of the cast are fair (notably Pat Nicholas, who handles the leading role with plenty of patience), many of its members are atrocious. One blonde girl, who appears in one of the first scenes, flubs her lines so badly I thought it was supposed to be a joke. It was not a joke.
Rodio's ambition is obvious, but dramatic ensembles are incredibly difficult to pull off -- which is why no one ever makes them. This kind of film takes a daring and original script, a virtuoso group of actors, and masterful direction/production values. This film is lacking on all three counts.