Tattoo, a Love Story
Continuing with their Film Forward Festival, Madstone Theaters in Ann Arbor present two more indie films for hungry eyes: Te Amo (Made in Chile) and Tattoo, a Love Story, playing May 15-28.
You may be tempted to dropkick Te Amo after watching many minutes of rich, rude teenagers trailing a path of disrespect behind them as they drive mom’s Mercedes through urban Chile. But stick it out. Even annoying people have meaningful stories to tell, and there could just be a pretty potent reason behind all that senseless rebellion. Samuel (Adrián Castilla) is the Lord of the Brats, leading his three friends to a city of refuge — in the guise of an abandoned house — far from family dysfunction, but they can’t help but bring some of that fun-undermining baggage along with them.
Chilean writer-director Sergio Castilla (The Girl in the Watermelon, Gringuito) tells his story with a mix of clean, third-person narrative shots and subjective, grainy, handheld video sequences taken by the kids. Like the look of the movie, the teenagers’ lives are split between speaking English and Chilean, and living like adolescent animals with each other, or going home to ominous emotional weights. Slap-worthy disrespect could be a byproduct of a lack of discipline, but it could also germinate from self-loathing.
Then, Tattoo, a Love Story is the most pleasant surprise of the festival: All work and no play makes “no-surprises Sara” a brittle, uptight third-grade teacher and determined not to have any unexpected fun. So when one of Sara’s students brings in tattoo-riddled Virgil the Biker to Show and Tell, her painfully predictable world is thrown into turmoil. A dragon on the chest or the Duke on an ankle turns out to be the unpredictable wrench tossed into her life’s orderly and lifeless balance. When she finds that her relationship of eight years is in jeopardy, as well as her job, because of a magic marker “demon turtle” incident, she’s got less to lose by taking a chance.
Richard W. Bean directed and co-wrote the script with Gregg Sacon, and both deserve a hearty ink-stained handshake for conceiving this felicitous and actually feasible “opposites first irritate, then share the seat of a Harley” film.
As Sara Frost, Megan Edwards is beautiful but unbearable, until Virgil, played by Virgil Mignanelli, cracks her thin-shelled existence open using his dry, quick wit with a home-decorating twist. But she ends up reciprocating, peeling away at his multicolored, 300-pound facade to find a lovable big lug. All of Virgil’s friends are a hoot, especially his sexually deviant yet damned charming roommate, Jim (Benjamin Burdick), sporting a different, demented online lie every scene. Jim is cute, blond and boy-next-door-normal-looking next to Virgil’s seedy girth, but he’s immersed in a sleazy lifestyle that rides on deciding whether or not to tell “Home Alone and Horny” he’s an astronaut or a stockbroker.
The closest thing Virgil gets to deviant behavior is having a $10 video store late charge for Pillow Talk. Nonetheless, Jim is genuinely concerned about Virgil’s lack of action when he asks, “When was the last time you were with a real woman?” Virgil: “I don’t know, when was the last time your mom was in town?” Jim: “I’m not kidding, Virg. If you’re not careful, you’re gonna get your virginity back in the mail.”
In Tattoo, you can count on every line of dialogue leading you either somewhere entertaining and/or someplace transformative – sometimes deep inside, sometimes just under the skin.
Showing exclusively at the Madstone Theaters (Briarwood Mall, Ann Arbor), May 15-28. Call 734-994-1000.
Anita Schmaltz writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.