Jammed (2014) – By Kyle Hytonen

Life in your mid 30’s can be pretty confusing, perhaps just as confusing as your awkward adolescent years. Maybe we want to forget our misguided pasts and move on, or it just might be that past is what we were looking for the whole time. The fast paced comedy feature Jammed provides a much nuanced commentary on this thesis.

The film opens with Evan (David Bly) and Rachel (Leah Rudick) on their way to a Jam Band festival in upstate Pennsylvania. Rachel is reliving her wild past by attending, and Evan, a well meaning but reserved boyfriend, is along for the ride. In a gleefully crude scene they bicker about the trials and tribulations of road head among other things. This scene sets the tone for the film and the tennis match relationship that the young couple have throughout. The couple arrive at the music festival, a park-in-a-field-and-pitch-your tent-in-the-woods type of music festival. Rachel has rented some expensive film equipment to shoot a documentary about the aptly named Stir Fry Music Festival, a mix of your typical hippie gatherings; Stoners, scraggly beards, acoustic troubadours and flaky flower children are seen interviewed by Rachel, with Evan doing his best to capture sound. As usual Evan means well by helping out, but he mostly steps on Rachel’s toes as the primary interviewer and manages to forget to press record on the audio mixer on more than one occasion.

After a long day of recording the couple decide to kick back and enjoy the music, so Evan takes it upon himself to bring back all of the film gear to the car. Unfortunately he accidentally leaves the trunk agape, and soon thereafter Rachel and Evan discover the equipment has vanished. While Rachel decides to release her tensions by forgetting about the lost equipment and enjoy what the festival has to offer, Evan now wound even tighter, goes looking for the gear. The couple run across Mike (Chris Roberti), the fuzzy and very open minded organic loving ex-boyfriend of Rachel’s. Mike treats the couple to a vegan breakfast, waxes poetic on the appreciation of the festival’s trippy music and exposes Rachel and Evan into drugs. Mike still holds feelings for Rachel but grows to like Evan as a friend as well. Mike is a typical free-spirit with a lot of emotional issues, a fine mix for a comedy of this nature. The three leads then begin a journey of self-discovery over the weekend, soaked with Jam Band music in the background and a very fresh outlook on the drug culture that surrounds the genre.

The third act of Jammed begins to get cluttered among the narrative and I found that the characters were put in a position that follows many of the standard trappings of a light hearted relationship comedy. Not to say that it wasn’t executed well, it just seems that at this point in the film the dilemmas and plotlines introduced earlier are quickly resolved to focus more so on the relationship element that anchors the film. Jammed comes from a very good place, and this is a film that is enjoyable throughout. The drawback just seems the somewhat satisfying climaxes revolving around the characters could have gone deeper than what was happening earlier, but hey, it’s a 3 day music fest, not a Dostoyevsky novel.

With the film, Director Yedidya Gorsetman creates a great atmosphere. Blending scenes of the main actors interacting with the festival goers (many scenes were obviously shot at an actual music festival) gives the film a resonance that could not be conveyed by littering the screen with extras and lip synchers. The faces the leads interact with for the most part in the crowd scenes give a look and feel to the film it needs, and director Gorsetman succeeds in bringing us so close you can smell the patchouli. No music festival is complete without sleeping in a undersized tent in the woods after chilling the night away in front of the campfire, and once again the atmosphere created by Gorsetman along with cinematographer Ian Coad is real, and it brings the viewer in closer as the characters pontificate their day in the twilight.

David Bly gives a terrific performance that seems to loosen with every pot brownie or LSD trip his Evan accidentally ingests. Bly charters his performance from the choppy waters of a young neurotic and rounds out his character’s metamorphosis to the shores of the film’s climax in quite a very subtle way. He blends his physicality well into his character and by the end of the film, his shoulders stand tall as he walks out of the woods a different man. Leah Rudick as Rachel subtly lets the audience know she still might be lost in her way even as she reaches her 30’s. Her documentary isn’t about artistry, it’s her own voice wanting to be heard, or maybe that’s just what she wants to think it’s about. Rudick never takes her role and character too seriously. She never allows Rachel to fall into the caricature of the jaded artist who now reluctantly drives a Nissan Sentra. She gives Rachel her faults but also accentuates her character’s bright spots with a very endearing performance. Chris Roberti as Mike, the always-high catalyst in the film’s second act has a lot of fun with his character. Maybe it was the wild mop of curls or the unkempt beard, but Robetri seems to be channelling some sort of hyperactive Zach Galifianakis in his performance. Mike is never overbearing or annoying as he splits the lines even further in Evan and Rachel’s relationship, and you can’t help deny his charm. Robeteri ensures that even a protagonist can sometimes be likeable.

There are a handful of jarring scenes peppered in the film, involving Evan’s search for the missing camera equipment. Most of these scenes, which seemed improvised with the actors, involve Evan questioning a festival goer who for the most part is stoned out of their head. The wacky ramblings do not lend themselves much to the narrative of the film and seem to go nowhere. They seem to serve nothing to the film but to pad the running time out to the lean 70 minutes that it now stands at. That being said, I’ve never engaged in enough conversations with the festival locals to know that maybe that’s how everyone talks at a Jam Band festival.

Jammed comes from a very deep place in screenwriter Mark Leidner’s heart. His script talks about those lost passages of time people recollect about as they reach middle age, and it never feels heavy handed or forceful. I also felt that his story lends itself to the idea that not everyone should be wound so tight, and one person’s perception of a scraggly mop topped stoner dancing with themselves at a music festival should not always be taken at face value. Leidner and director Gorsetman know that their audience, perhaps geared toward the ilk-age of their own generation, allow everyone to dance to their own music and make up their own minds, even through the haze of weed smoke.

Jammed was produced by Runaway Bandit Films in association with Bushkill Films. You can find out everything you want to know about Jammed at the film’s website at http://www.jammedmovie.com