Returning to campus, Director and University of Miami alumnus John Herzfeld brought together a star-studded cast in his latest film “Reach Me,” including Kyra Sedgwick, Thomas Jane, Kevin Connolly, Nelly, Kelsey Grammer, Tom Berenger, Danny Aiello, Danny Trejo and UM alumnus Sylvester Stallone.
There were high expectations for the movie “Reach Me,” however many were not met. The film premiered in the Field House Thursday Nov. 20 with Herzfeld and actors Aiello and Berenger participating in a question and answer session afterward.
The film focused on a motivational book by the anonymous Teddy Raymond (Berenger). Various characters in the film stumble upon it, leading them to seriously reassess their life choices, which compel the characters to overcome their fears in hopes of living a better life.
During the session, Herzfeld revealed the inspiration for several scenes, many of which were based on real-life situations. One inspiration came from a day when, after being fired from a job, Herzfeld went to the beach in Hudson Park and screamed at the ocean. This was the origin of the scene where Roger (Kevin Connolly) screamed at the ocean, “My name is Roger and I am not a smoker.” According to Herzfeld, Connolly, just like his character, smoked two packs of cigarettes a day since the age of 14, but has not smoked since playing his role.
Herzfeld prided himself on choosing actors talented enough to have freedom with their characters. For some like Aiello, who played an alcoholic named Father Paul, the creative freedom was beneficial, but for others like Thomas Jane who played Wolfie, a western-like cop who killed for a living, the freedom may not have been the best choice. One of the fallen expectations emerged when Wolfie entered a very urban setting. He had his own cowboy-themed music and style that was more confusing than entertaining.
Apart from the odd characters, there were also a string of random plots: a woman newly released from jail, an aspiring actress, gangsters on a mission, a journalist attempting to find a new career and a man with a little dog and stereotypical bimbo girlfriend. Somehow these all were supposed to join into one coherent plot, but instead these characters were thrown in one space and given a conflict to deal with, as if Herzfeld forgot that these plots needed to connect at some point.
Despite the unfortunate shortcomings of the film, there were still many upsides that made it worth watching.
For starters, “Reach Me” was funny and had plenty of back-to-back comedic situations that held the audience’s attention.
Some of the best moments were when Father Paul walked away from the confession drinking and in another scene when Dominic (David O’Hara), an intellectually disabled gangster, reads out loud thought-provoking quotes as his partner is beating up their newest victim, awkwardly disturbing the violent atmosphere.
As each plot developed, a serious message of self-reflection began to emerge, ensuring that the path the viewer is taking is the path he or she wants to be on. “Reach Me” suggested that viewers face their fears of failure or inability to achieve and just go with what makes them happy.
“Reach Me” has its ups and downs, and depending on the day, it could be a worthwhile film.