Most actors don’t have it easy. Only the ones who become famous possess the fiscal security to lead a cushy life. For anyone else trying to score that life-changing role, every day is an uphill battle. Aspiring actors face rejection, humiliation, and financial woes on the path to their dreams. Honest, kind people like Paul Kaplan (Hugo Armstrong) in director Daniel Matinico’s drama “Ok, Good” must struggle daily to keep their drive in the face of adversity.
The film, which is co-written by Armstrong, follows Kaplan’s attempt to maintain his sanity, as he suffers through degrading commercial auditions. We’re first introduced to Paul at a group tryout where he’s placed in a prison-style lineup. He must state his name, turn to show his profile, display his hands, and then recite a line. The next place we see Paul is in his acting class, where he and other hopefuls engage in silly exercises designed to build confidence and skills. After class, Paul listens to motivational tapes and feeds on Ramen noodles.
His life is just one depressing cycle of these same events on rinse and repeat. Paul doesn’t have any family or friends to rely on. The only sad human interaction he has, involves a misunderstanding with the copy place that prints his headshots. Even that is a frustrating experience for him since he’s neither assertive nor articulate enough to properly resolve the issue.
Martinico’s film is an obvious descent into madness, which completely lacks subtlety. His repetitive focus on the mundane activities in Paul’s life and use of extreme close ups during these scenes are a plodding way that he signals an impending breakdown. As if that’s not a big enough red flag, Martinico also exposes Paul’s increasingly animalistic behavior in each acting class to alert you about the approaching meltdown.
Hugo Armstrong gives a powerful performance as Paul Kaplan, delving deep into the psyche of an aspiring actor. Armstrong shows you exactly what it’s like to be man struggling to maintain optimism in spite of overwhelming odds. When Kaplan does finally crack, in the middle of an audition and can’t remember his lines, you legitimately feel sorry for him.
Without giving specific spoilers on how the film ends, “Ok, Good” is both depressing and headache inducing because it only dwells on the negative parts of show business. It gets you attached to a character that unfortunately gets swallowed up by the system. And even though plenty of people in real life sit in Paul’s position, you still hope that something will finally go his way. Not every movie has to have a happy ending; however this one would be much better if it did.
My Grade: C
IFF Boston runs through Wednesday May 2, 2012. For more information on the festival, please visit www.iffboston.org.