Bruno And Earlene Go To Vegas
It's sincerely disappointing to see nascent talent thwarted, but "Bruno and Earline Go to Vegas" comes up as something of a fail. It's not an "epic fail," but a fail nonetheless. The eclectic elements of plot and characters that pique your interest never coalesce into either a cogent narrative or a true flight of fancy. Writer and director Simon Savory has taken the road movie and added a cabinet chock full of spices that would be individually intriguing, but mashed together result in a somewhat indistinct stew.
Earline (Ashleigh Sumner) is a pragmatic and irascible young woman of undefined background who is on the run from something. Bruno (Miles Szanto) is a skateboard-toting Aussie with delicate features and an airy demeanor. Each of them has a secret. Earline's is health-related, and it's clear from the beginning Bruno will be dealing with some gender identity concerns.
They meet on Venice Beach, get drunk, and hit the road in less than a day. An increasingly improbable series of encounters follows. Bruno seems to be part of a "family" of vagabonds who engage in a vacation home-swap breaking-and-entering scam; there's the gay cop chasing them who simultaneously comes out to his pretty female partner (Phillip Evelyn and Clarissa Thibeaux); a pseudo-clinician/photographer (Greg Travis) extorts gender-variant porn from Bruno and others while seeming to have some darker motivations; and an island of misfit LGBT folks homesteading in the desert. There are also some car thefts, shoot-outs, a talent show, and a quest for the Eiffel Tower.
Everything happens at a blinding pace. On the basis of one day's non-romantic acquaintance Earline acts on a clearly overdeveloped sense of responsibility for Bruno that has her breaking into a mansion and rescuing him from a fate worse than something she knows absolutely nothing about, and Bruno goes along with it. Next thing you know they're heading for Vegas.
From there, the film lurches between interesting mini-scenes that start to engage in generic road movie tropes as if it can't decide which film it wants to be. Layered above it all is a DJ voice-over (Cassandra Petersen) offering trite tweet-sized bits of pop psychology that don't really connect to or advance the plot.
Most interesting is the desolate desert town, which serves as the longest rest stop of the journey. It is run by a gun-toting, surgically altered Cher impersonator (Janice Danielle), possibly in a relationship with an African-American drag queen or transgender woman (Barbie Q) -- neither facet of the character is made clear. There's also the Scottish ex-stripper rock-n-roll wannabes (Anthony Cherrie and Ross William Wild) -- one gay, one not, a former showgirl now bartender (Eileen Hertz), and random folks who arrive out of nowhere. The group has the unfulfilled potential for a fascinating queer "Bagdad Café" all on its own, but unfortunately only serves as a backdrop for a generic conflict between the leads.
Still making the festival circuit, "Bruno and Earline Go to Vegas" needs a lot of technical fixing. The color is frequently uneven, the editing sometimes jumpy, and parts of the sound mix put the underscore so far forward as to render seemingly critical dialogue unintelligible.
Szanto and Sumner are fine performers and play their roles as well as they can, saddled as they are with unclear motivations. Barrett Crake is a little creaky in his line readings as a pretty, car-jacking bisexual hustler. Few of the other characters are developed enough to have an impact. This is something Savory could have fixed, because he creates interesting character profiles but often seems to stop short of giving them sufficient backstory or direction to let the viewer engage.
At the beginning of the film someone intones: "Experience is the name we give our mistakes." One hopes that first-time director Savory will grow from this experience.