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Mojave Phone Booth

D: John Putch / 88m

Cast: Annabeth Gish, Christine Elise, Tinarie van Wyk Loots, Robert Romanus, Steve Guttenberg, Missi Pyle, Joy Gohring, David DeLuise, Jacleen Haber, Kevin Rahm, Larry Poindexter, Shani Wallis

Based around a real phone booth that was situated in the Mojave desert and which people would call in the hope that someone would answer, Mojave Phone Booth tells four stories set in and around Las Vegas. The first concerns Beth (Gish). Beth is in a relationship she is having trouble committing to; she’s also overly curious about all the audio tape that litters the area; she can’t help but wonder why these tapes have been discarded, and what may be on them. The second story concerns Mary (Loots). Mary is in financial trouble. When she gets fired she goes to stay with her friend Rachel (Haber). Rachel offers her a chance to make some money and get herself out of trouble. But there’s a catch…

The third story concerns Alex (Elise). Alex is in a relationship with Glory (Gohring), but Glory is convinced she is being persecuted by aliens. When she meets Michael (DeLuise), online and he tells her he can help her, Alex and Glory’s relationship is put under further strain. The last story concerns Richard (Romanus). Richard’s marriage has broken down. He tries desperately to win back his wife Sarah (Pyle) by compiling a videotape of what he believes are happy moments in their marriage, and showing it to her. All four main characters use the titular phone booth to speak to the mysterious Greta (Wallis).

Mojave Phone Booth - scene

Mojave Phone Booth begins slowly, with Beth’s story appearing somewhat elliptical.  Her relationship with Tim (Rahm) revolves around his wanting Beth to move in with him, but Beth is unsure if she should. There’s an understated reluctance by Beth to engage with Tim on an emotional level, and Gish plays her with an instinctive fragility of character. Mary’s story is more straightforward. She is struggling to get by and wants to get into real estate. When Rachel offers her a way of overcoming her problems, a way that involves both women sleeping with businessman Barry (Guttenberg), the internal struggle that results is credibly portrayed. Loots gives a fine performance, imbuing Mary with a toughness that belies the character’s vulnerability.

The story of Alex and Glory is the lightest in tone, with its alien parasite conceit, and the growing certainty that Michael isn’t all he seems. Elise and Gohring both put in good performances, and there’s a connection between the two actresses that helps their on-screen relationship tremendously. Lastly, Richard’s story is the darkest, his descent into post-marital depression both pathetic and affecting in equal measure. Romanus matches his female co-stars for quality, while Pyle makes the most of her brief screen time.

The stories are the key here, and the movie’s running time helps ensure that none outstay their welcome. They’re all made entirely believable by the sharpness of the script by director Putch and co-writer Jerry Rapp. The characters’ emotional lives are well-drawn and depicted, and the sporadic inclusions of humour ensure the drama doesn’t overwhelm the narrative. The performances are exemplary, with special mentions going to Gish and Romanus. Mojave Phone Booth is an indie treat – by turns intelligent, funny, thought-provoking, and absorbing from start to finish.

Rating: 8/10 – deserving of a wider audience, Mojave Phone Booth works on several levels and makes it all look easy; it’s a bona fide gem.

Originally posted on thedullwoodexperiment website.

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