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‘Introducing Jodea’ an honest indie effort

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There are a LOT of movies out there.

Thanks to the increasing affordability and exponential increase in quality of film equipment, the barriers to entry with regard to filmmaking are lower than they have ever been. It has never been easier to make a film.

That’s not to say that it is EASY. Making a movie is still a daunting enterprise, and while there are fewer obstacles, certain realities with regard to financing and distribution remain. Filmmakers still have plenty of hurdles to clear.

In some cases, these indie films prove to be showcases for great work, with the people involved finding ways to stretch every available resource to create something excellent. In those cases, the filmmakers find ways to work with their constraints; their movies likely have their flaws, but their pros far outshine their cons.

In other cases, well … not so much.

Unfortunately, the new film “Introducing Jodea,” directed by Jon Cohen from a story by Chloe Traicos (who also stars), falls largely into that latter category. The film – yet another cinematic riff on “Pygmalion” – tries to poke fun at the Hollywood machine while telling an engaging love story, but the effort never quite resonates.

It’s a good-faith attempt, but the film simply can’t reach the level to which it aspires. And while some of the blame can certainly be placed on lack of resources, the reality is that there’s not enough here. It just doesn’t work.

Jodea (Chloe Traicos, TV’s “The Righteous Gemstones”) is an aspiring actress in Hollywood. Unfortunately, she’s been aspiring for almost a decade at this point, with no big break in sight. She’s living in a camper; her landlord is an awkward Brit named Harold (Ryan Pratton, “Roads, Trees and Honey Bees) who thinks all movies made in the last 50 years are crap. Her car’s a beater with doors that don’t open and she works as a waitress at a take-out place while trying to get her foot in the door with production assistant work.

It’s not going well.

Meanwhile, disgraced director Zac Kowalsky (Jeff Thomas Coppage, “Ava”) is trying to make a comeback after a stint in rehab. His new film – starring his famous actress wife Isabella (Yadira Pascault Orozco, “Bride+1”) – is supposed to mark his triumphant return. However, his arrogance and general unhappiness can’t help but infect the process.

Jodea’s working on the set of that film when one of her mistakes leads to an unfortunate incident involving Isabella. She’s fired and escorted off set, left to bemoan yet another missed opportunity.

Everything changes a few days later, however, when an inattentive Zac rear-ends Jodea. In an effort to avoid the insurance companies, Zac writes her a check to cover the damage. But when she goes after him to correct the check, she overhears a conversation between Zac and his agent Grant (Kent Hatch, “Dark Cycle”) about the issues with the film; she asks that instead of paying her off, Zac put her in the movie.

This leads to a bet between Zac and Grant; if Zac can get a good performance out of Jodea within a week, Grant will use his pull to get a major movie star for the film.

And we’re off. From there, you can pretty much guess how it plays out.

“Introducing Jodea” is an obviously aspirational movie, both in its subject matter and in its making. And that’s a good thing – any artist worth their salt is going to keep reaching rather than resting on laurels. However, the reality here is that this film’s reach exceeds its grasp.

There are underlying themes at work here that are potentially quite compelling. Imbuing this sort of story with the “who you know” aspect of achieving Hollywood success is an interesting take, giving the standard “actress who will do anything for a part” trope a twist. And one could argue that cinema history is filled with reflections of this tale, with big-deal directors or executives plucking people from obscurity and turning them into stars – the Lana Turner soda fountain discovery story has become a foundational Hollywood myth, questionable veracity and all.

But director Cohen and the rest of the team don’t quite manage to execute those themes cleanly. It’s the sort of low-budget production where you can see the seams a bit, and when you’re ostensibly showing us the filming of a big-budget extravaganza, the disconnect proves a bit much. Again, it’s an honest effort, but the stripped-down production values undermine that effort.

The story’s familiarity proves troublesome as well, though the slight twist on the tale does help. Still, this particular creative sea has been fished pretty clean, and too often, “Introducing Jodea” seems content to relax into the aforementioned familiarity rather than push onward.

Traicos pretty obviously created this role – and this film – as a vehicle for herself. And honestly? Good on her. Opportunities are thin on the ground, so if you can find a way to make your own, more power to you. She has obviously thrown herself into this project headlong; the passion behind it is clear throughout. Coppage’s take on the bad-boy director and the ethos said directors are often steeped in is interesting – one wonders if the name is intended as a direct reference to Zack Snyder, or if it’s just a coincidence. There are some other ensemble members doing work – Hatch is suitably sleazy, for instance, and Pratton’s bumbling clicks – but really, it’s the Traicos and Coppage show, for better or worse.

“Introducing Jodea” isn’t a great film. But it is an honest film. There’s a blood-sweat-and-tears energy to the thing that one can’t help but admire. These people invested themselves in making this film as a labor of love. Is it always a successful effort? Perhaps not. But the effort still matters. Better to try and fall short than never to try at all.

[2.5 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 07 June 2021 07:01

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