Come Together (2008) – By Cary Conley

April 29, 1992. Where were you? What were you doing, what were you thinking? In case you don’t remember this particular date, it was the day the verdict came in that exonerated the four white cops videotaped beating Rodney King. Come Together opens with seven friends converging on a house in the Hollywood Hills the day of the verdict. L.A. is in flames and anarchy reigns. The friends have all come to the house to get out of L.A. and into the relative safety of the suburbs. Against this explosive backdrop, the friends also begin to explore their feelings about the riots and race relations as well as their relationships with each other, their hopes and dreams.

The seven characters are fairly stereotypical of an ensemble cast. We have the intense rocker and his steamy Latino ex-girlfriend and wannabe-model. They still really care for each other, but each is too stubborn to try to work things out. This creates some sexual tension between the two as well as some tension amongst the others, who all at some point jockey for either their friendship or some simple companionship during the film. The sometime model has a (very) gay brother who is best friends with the rocker but is secretly in love him. This unrequited love lends a bit of tension to the film as well. The gay brother also happens to be a junkie. We also have the studious nerd who has come to complete a class project and perhaps to lose his virginity along the way. There’s also the vacuous blonde who tries to sound smart by spouting off meaningless drivel and is so stuck up she’d drown if it rained. And there’s also the horny black dude who, despite the racial tension in L.A. is more concerned with hitting on a Mary Jane and then hitting it with Lulu, the nicey-nice Asian dancer.

Over the course of a weekend, the group fights it out and loves it up, with everyone but the gay brother getting in on the action. And over that weekend, each character is transformed from a self-important and arrogant person more concerned about him (or her) self to a more thoughtful and introspective person.

While this all sounds like the makings of a dramatic and sexy story, unfortunately, the film doesn’t really ever gel quite right. The film itself is technically proficient and shows that as a director, Charles Unger is definitely headed in the right direction. I don’t have any arguments with the directing, cinematography, or any other technical aspects of the film. They were all very good. I particularly enjoyed the set design and the costumes. I felt like the filmmakers hit the nail on the head, complete with a huge portable phone that must have weighed three pounds. But one of my complaints is in the writing itself. I didn’t think the film ever really paralleled the L.A. riots closely enough. There were occasional snippets of radio broadcasts and bits of dialogue from the characters that addressed the riots, but this backdrop was absent from large chunks of the film. Occasionally the topic would be revisited briefly, but instead of emphasizing the impetus for the film–the riots themselves–the theme seemed like it was relegated to a secondary plot device. This minimized the impact the riots could have on the group of friends and also unfortunately portrayed the characters as quite insensitive to the entire matter. It seemed they were more worried about sex and drugs than the riots themselves. This disconnect from the riots was especially magnified by the blasé attitudes of the minority characters, who almost certainly would have been quite interested in the riots, and especially the dialogues that came during and immediately after the event. The result is a film that is part sexy comedy and part human drama, with these two parts never really meshing well together.

I also was not impressed with the acting. Granted, the girls were all terrific eye-candy, and they were supposed to be, but besides Cooney Horvath as Seth, the self-centered and cocky rocker, the acting just wasn’t very strong or particularly believable. Again, part of this, I believe was exacerbated by the nonchalance of the characters concerning the riots. I just didn’t feel that many of the reactions towards this seminal event were realistic.

The film does have some funny and dramatic moments as well as some totally outrageous set pieces (see Vanessa Gomez as a totally sexy dominatrix). Perhaps the craziest scene is when the gay brother OD’s and the entire group must come together to save his life. I haven’t seen a crazier overdose scene since Pulp Fiction. Ultimately, everyone exorcizes some demons and as L.A. calms down, the friends leave each other, content and at peace with themselves and each other, if not entirely happy. Come Together (an appropriate double entendre) is a mixed bag of comedy and drama, and while it may not be entirely successful, Mr. Unger should be commended for tackling such a touchy subject in a thought-provoking way. For more information, look it up on-line at Amazon, Borders, Best Buy, and Netflix, or go to www.cometogetherfilm.com.