The Long, Slow Death of a Twenty-Something (2011) – By Cary Conley

Ben is a loser. He spends his days working a dead-end, minimum wage job at a comics and video game shop and his nights drinking, smoking pot and playing video games with his two roommates. Other days he either spends playing Dungeons & Dragons or dressing up as his favorite role-playing character and re-enacting battles in a field with his loser friends. On rare occasions, he sees his long-time girlfriend, which mainly consists of her watching Ben go berserk while losing at online games.

When his girlfriend, Donna, eventually gets tired of his antics, she dumps him which sends Ben into a state of crisis. He begins to reexamine his life. He takes a long, hard look at his life and Ben doesn’t like what he sees. Ben decides to try and win Donna back by pretending to be someone he isn’t. Off with the Superman shirts and on with the funky hat, cool shades, and preppy pink shirt.

Ben plans a "chance encounter" with Donna at a yuppie bar and very soon Donna notices the external changes Ben has made. She likes them. But has Ben really changed? Soon Ben and Donna are dating again, this time doing what Donna wants to do, which basically consists of going to yuppie bars and more adult "get-togethers" where the young adults have shallow and meaningless conversations that further alienate Ben.

While Donna is happy with the "new" Ben, no one else is. Ben’s sister sees through his fake facade and gives him a hard time; Ben’s father, a no-nonsense Vietnam vet, is unhappy with Ben’s choices; Ben’s friends don’t even recognize him anymore; and Ben himself is having a crisis of sorts. He misses his old way of life, but loves Donna; however, he can’t stand the new, fake Ben nor can he stand his new, fake friends, people who are more suited to Donna than to himself. Eventually, Ben reaches his boiling point, exploding at a party with Donna and her friends, exposing himself for the sham he feels like he is.

Writer/director/star Larry Longstreth has crafted a simple yet insightful film, part drama, mostly comedy, about a twenty-something contemplating what it means to be an adult as he approaches the age of 30. I identified with Ben myself because I remember equating 30 with adulthood and increased responsibility just as Ben does. Longstreth, starring as Ben, does a terrific job portraying a young man at odds with himself as he tries to figure out what to do with his life. Ben knows he is being less than honest with Donna, but may be more unhappy because he’s not being honest with himself. As a writer, Longstreth does an excellent job exploring the soul of a young man as he tries to figure out who he is and who he ultimately wants to become. Does he want to conform to others’ expectations to please them even if it means being unhappy with himself, or does he want to stay true to his own personal beliefs even if that means not everyone will always be happy with his choices?

Particularly effective is the scene-stealing Al Hudson as Ben’s dad who does a wonderful job alternating between being gruff and sentimental. The scenes between Ben and his father are wonderfully authentic and are the highlights of the film. This quirky dramedy is both funny and poignant and I really enjoyed it. The Long, Slow Death of a Twenty-Something has not been released yet but is well worth catching. For more information, go to www.4reelz.com, and you can also check out the film’s trailer here.