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  • jotix10014 December 2006
    Warning: Spoilers
    Valerie Flake is constantly asked about her rather strange last name. She makes up stories about her background, as she answers. After all, she is a vulnerable young woman who doesn't want to get too close to people when we first meet her. Valerie has gone through a hard period in her life after the tragedy of her husband's horrible death, something she feels guilty for indirectly having caused it.

    This young woman is no dummy. As a matter of fact, besides being a painter on her own right, Valerie knows a lot about art because not only did she study it, but her work has taken her to positions in which her knowledge was much appreciated. When we are introduced to her, she is working as a cashier at a large Los Angeles supermarket. Her immediate boss knows he has an excellent worker, a bit more mature and responsible than some of the others. When he offers her a promotion, she declines. Valerie Flake doesn't want any more responsibilities at the moment.

    Her married sister comes by to confront her with a litany of complaints because she feels Valerie is falling into despair. She also tells her about the upcoming anniversary of her former in-laws in Palm Springs. We watch as she heads toward that desert community to be part of the celebrations. In getting there, Valerie had stopped at a local supermarket to make a purchase where the sole cashier is having trouble ringing another customer's purchase. The manager of that store, Tim Darnell, likes what he sees.

    At the in-laws, things are not as strained as one could have expected. The older Flakes have dealt with their son's death in a positive manner, whereas Valerie still is bitter and angry at having caused her husband's death. Both Douglas and Irene Flake are told by Valerie about what really happened with their son as she comes clean. Valerie, who has been seeing Tim Darnell, is visited by Douglas who tells her how wrong she has been for carrying all that burden bottled up inside her.

    At the end, we watch as Valerie heads back to Los Angeles in her yellow VW van. She evidently has come to grips with herself and what she wants to do with her own life.

    This beautiful film was given a great treatment by its fine director, John Putch. He clearly deserves praise for having the courage to bring an adult, and human story to the screen. Nothing is sugar-coated in the excellent screen play Robert Tilem wrote. Mr. Putch shows great sensibility for the material in this independent film that unfortunately didn't make it to a wider distribution and now is surfacing on cable.

    Susan Traylor is the whole reason for watching the film. This actress, who is not exactly a Hollywood beauty, is perfect as this confused and angry young woman. Her Valerie is real and we sense it from the start. Ms. Traylor never makes a wrong gesture, or a wrong move, giving the director the complexity in her character he, and Mr. Tilen, had in mind. Ms. Traylor is a wonderful presence in the film.

    Jay Witherspoon has some good moments as Tim Darnell, the young man who likes Valerie. Christine Pickles, who plays Tim's mother, is another surprise. She thinks she knows what Valerie is looking for, and how wrong she really is! Peter Michael Goetz, an actor who should be seen more often, and Rosemary Forsyth, a great actress, play the parents of Valerie's late husband. Ann Gillespie and Terrence Howard are seen in small roles.

    It's a shame "Valerie Flake" was not seen by more people. We consider ourselves lucky to have watched this excellent film that shows human emotions that are real. Special praise must go to Mr. Putch and his creative partners, especially the cinematographer, Mark Putnam, and the composers of the film score, Alesander Baker and Clair Marlo.
  • I've seen Valerie Flake twice now at screenings, and was very pleasantly surprised the first time, and equally entertained the second. The performances are wonderful without exception, and the direction is very accomplished. This is especially so considering the no doubt abbreviated shooting schedule on a $500,000 budget. While I had a few small problems with the ending, I was unable to find any major faults in the film. I think the picture hinges almost entirely on the performance of the lead acttress, and I can see why some moviegoers might not be instantly smitten with her. However, I think that's part of what makes the film work. It takes some work on the audiences part to root for this character, but once you make that decision you're in for an entertaining ride.
  • richset-25 November 2006
    Wayne Dwight (nwdwight@earthlink.net) With all the comments the above person wrote were way off base! This was one of those movies that keeps you on edge of your seat wondering where it is going and if this poor unfortunate can find happiness, which she ends up not finding! Sad movie, but fun to watch and just enjoy as a story that most of us will never live! Susan Traylor did an excellent job in this movie! Don't understand why this hasn't brought her additional roles. She just made the movie, even with her exposure and dead pan expressions, which just made her more interesting to the viewer! I have to say I really enjoyed watching and enjoying her work!
  • Excellent job of writing on this. Not our usual Hollywood garb, but writer Robert Tilem added a rather complex, confused, and conflicting portrayal of lead character Valerie Flake (Susan Traylor) Most scripts do not delve into subject matter like this, but rather stay at the safe, surface (let's sell tickets) level. Peter Michael Goeta (My Engagement Party) plays Valerie's Father-In-Law and is just one of many in the film that can't figure out what to make of their deceased son's widowed wife. Jay Underwood also does a admirable job as the (innocent) love interest! I also find Valerie Flake's character to be more believable because physically she is no goddess, but knows what she can get from others...whether she wants it or not! For an Indy film, I very much liked the delivery. Kudos to John Putch (Director, and son of Jean Stapleton) and Robert Tilem (Writer) for not being afraid to film against the predictable Hollywood grain!. Hope to see more films from this team!
  • The buzz was good. "Why can't more films be like this one," remarked an audience member as he left the Dickinson WestGlen 18 theater complex in Shawnee, Kan. after the special Film Society of Greater Kansas City screening of "Valerie Flake," the independent film from director John Putch starring Susan Traylor and Jay Underwood. The movie drew praise from several members--but not this critic. And yes, it pains me to say so, considering Underwood traveled hundreds of miles to Kansas City from California just to promote the film (and serve as featured speaker for the Eighth Annual KAN Film Festival at the University of Kansas the following day).

    In his remarks before the screening, Underwood described the film as a "labor of love." He auditioned for his role as Tim, the heroine's love interest, because he was attracted to the "great script." Every movie needs a strong story, and according to Underwood this one has one. So strong, in fact, it was one of those rare occasions when both his manager and his agent were in agreement after reading the script. However, as Underwood himself remarked the next day at the KAN Film Festival, a great script doesn't always guarantee a great movie. Sadly, that seems to be the case with "Valerie Flake."

    This film revolves around the character of Valerie. She's in every scene and somewhat of an enigma. She's a grieving widow who unsympathetically ridicules her dead spouse. She sleeps around (to mask her pain?) and fears commitment. And she struggles with at least one demon inside her, which she unleashes at her in-law's 40th wedding anniversary celebration.

    The film is a complex character study (as many independent films are), and for it to succeed, the audience must relate in someway to Valerie. Unfortunately, Traylor failed to connect with me. She plays Valerie too blandly. She's supposed to be an alcoholic, yet she seems to be the same person drunk or sober. Most people I know change personalities at least a little bit when they are under the influence of the booze. Valerie stays in the same stupor all the time.

    Traynor's blandness becomes even more apparent when contrasted with Underwood's character Tim. He's a sweet, instantly-likeable guy who's suddenly smitten by Valerie when he sees her helping the new cashier in the grocery store he manages. Granted he's been separated from his wife for eight months and is extremely lonely, but it's impossible to see what attracts him to Valerie. She's certainly not very charming, and yet within two days he invites her to live with him. By the end of the week, he proposes marriage, much to the dismay of his disapproving mother, nicely played by Christina Pickles. I could understand Valerie falling for Tim, but not the other way around.

    The rest of the ensemble does a fine job. Director John Putch (son of actress Jean Stapleton) enticed several veteran actors into the cast (Peter Michael Goetz and Rosemary Forsyth are particularly effective in what amounts to cameo roles as Valerie's in-laws). The music by Kathleen Wilhoite helped set the mood for several montage sequences and the production values belie the film's meager (by Hollywood standards) $500,000 budget. According to Underwood, the film was well-received by the Daily Variety critic at this year's Sundance Film Festival, but failed to attract a distributor.
  • What I found intriguing about this study is how close Valerie's attitude is to mine. Simplifying her life, she finds out how complicated she is. Letting go of the past is by far one of the most difficult, yet necessary experiences in life. By coming into contact with this jaded, poignantly honest woman has a profound (yet, subtle to the eye) affect on those she meets. I highly recommend this movie to those people who are asking some questions about life. I found it funny, bittersweet and incredibly honest. All performances were perfect. I especially liked the father in-law. Great writer and music. Thanks, Valerie Flake. See you around. WHY IS MY REVIEW NOT ON THE TOP, AS THE MOST RECENT?
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I find this character really compelling with the caste of mind that would make even a brief conversation with her a rare treat. She is shooting from the hip kind of thinking on her feet interesting. Of course a good deal of credit to the writer of the dialog but delivered in a remarkable fashion by Susan Traylor, who I had never heard of before. I expect great things from her in the future (the future of at least my cinema experience since this is 7 years old).

    Now VF is no model of stability and her central core is that of a "damaged" persona, apt to roil in the curious activity of guilt and self loathing. Even her name gives away a bit of what her inclinations are in relating to a variety of life's testing situations. There is fearfulness and courage, intelligence and wit mixed with a sense of the foreboding of just-not-good-enough to make such a character develop in the viewer an interest in what happens to her as well as pulling for her decisions even if you might think them self defeating.

    Valerie is a flake of sorts; a characterization I would think she would embrace even though it obviously doesn't fully define her. But you admire the courage and willingness not to settle for some offering of white-picket-fence illusion in place of the certainty of what it may take to ground her.

    Kudos to the supporting cast, who provide a framework where VF is able to reveal as much of her as she is willing to expose. The in-laws were terrific in their obvious affection for VF and even the difficult tolerance for her heartfelt revelations of life with their son and the flaws in her capability of not being able to resist self-destructive actions. The boyfriend-fiancé is perfect to develop the anatomy of the velvet trap tempting VF to capitulate. What she decides to do may jar some viewers but how she does it is always delicious.
  • I just watched Valerie Flake on Sundance Channel. It was fabulous! I never sit through an entire movie, totally focused, hoping it will never end, but I couldn't get my mind away from this film for one second. The music was excellent and the acting brilliant!

    Thank you for a very entertaining two hours on my Saturday afternoon! -H. Solomon, Kansas City, MO
  • I woke up one day and heard this movie on the TV. I thought here we go another pretentious emotive about being unpretentious. But I kept watching it. I recognized Susan from a lot of people I know. Some are middle age people who have gone through life and are a little jaded. She also represents a lot of younger people I know who has had something happen big or small and has let that one incident change their whole outlook.

    This movie shows how certain situations or ONE situation molds a person. We all know people like that. For example a man has ONE girlfriend who cheats on him. So for the rest of his life he deals with all women like they cannot be trusted. People who let one bad experience control the rest of their lives.

    Not to give anything away but it deals with the conclusion in a realistic way. People just go on in life letting that one situation define them and how they will interact with other people. I guess we call it life.

    I like the lead actress, she is perfect for the part. People say she is homely. Not to me. She looks like a average looking person. People have been so jaded by letting Hollywood and the media define what is pretty that anyone who doesn't look like a starlet is considered homely. She looks just like the type of girl men marry and have kids with. There is nothing homely about her. She brings credibility to the role, because of the way she looks.

    The people who interact in her life are interesting too. She has one friend, but she is not a person who is mean or nasty she is just not interested in a lot of stuff. She says things to people that people do not expect to hear but need to be told. That is one of the reasons I like people like her. No false pretense. I like that she has a good relationship with her in laws. You can see she really loves them. And they love her too.

    When she tells them why she feels the way she does and acts the way she does, they have a very realistic response. Big deal. I love that, because so many people make things big deals when they really are not so life shattering. I love that point was made in the movie. But like most she was already in her comfort zone so she was not going to change.

    I understood why that guy liked her right away It is the good girl ,bad boy complex. He was looking for a bad girl and he thought she was one. I had a boy boy complex so I saw the attraction right away. The problem with her sister seemed to have predated the tragedy with her husband. So that could of been about anything.

    I was happy to see Mike Damone from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Richard Romanus. He played the bartender. Looks older but sounds the same. It was a nice small part. Same goes for Terrence Howard. Nice to see he him before he became the baby faced bad boy of movies. It was a good role for me to see because even though he played Jackie Jackson years ago in the movie about the Jackson 5 he really didn't do much. This role gives a glimpse on how he could play a different character then the roles he is being type-casted in now. His voice was even different in this movie. Get another agent Terrence, now.

    The only thing that annoyed me and I know people liked was that soundtrack. I just do not like that type of music and voice. It took away from the movie. It was a distraction. I am not sure what was more annoying the voice or the music. That IMO is the only downside of the movie.
  • jtur882 June 2001
    Far be it from me to try to tell anyone they will or won't like a film---I've been wrong far too often. But I liked the film, flawed as it was. The script didn't always ring very realistic, but the cast pulled it off pretty well. Desribed earlier as `homely', I found Valerie (Susan Traylor) to be the kind of homely that it would be easy to fall in love with at first sight. I remember her from "Broken Vessels", too, (probably a better film) so maybe she has a nice Catherine Keener-esque career ahead of her. As for the ending, I found myself wondering how it related to the rest of the film, so I was left a bit uneasy.
  • "Valerie Flake" is a slice-of-life indie which tells of a homely young woman with an abundance of sarcasm as she tries to find herself in the wake of her husband's death. The film is flawed in many ways but the most notable seems to be how her love interest falls all over himself at first sight when most men would have been running the other direction. I sat through this tedious and very ordinary drama because the Tivo guide info ranked it at 2.5 stars along side such films as "Girl Interrupted" and "The Patriot". Guess I'll be calling Tivo. Pass on this one.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Brad Silberling, the writer/director of ‘Moonlight Mile', is in this indie picture too, in a cameo appearance as a ‘guy in the shower'. His brief performance is hardly noticeable in the movie, except only when it comes to the credits roll, his name is the only one that stood out. Having helm such ‘A' Hollywood pictures as ‘City of Angels', ‘Casper', and directing episodes of hit TV series like NYPD Blue, Judging Amy, and Felicity among others, my initial reaction is to wonder is this really the same Brad Silberling, or some other bloke who bear the same name. Having confirmed his ‘involvement' in `Valerie Flake' from IMDB, I have taken the liberties to make some observations, i.e. comparing Silberling's ‘Moonlight Mile' with `Valerie Flake'.

    `Warning: Spoilers ahead'

    There are many obvious similarities between the two in terms of thematic elements, characterization, and the plot development. The main protagonist of both films are presented as widows who seems unable to deal with the sudden bereavement of their loved one, crash in to stay with the in-laws, encounters a new love interest in a new environment, and eventually reveals to the surrogate parents (the in-laws) that it is not holy matrimony between his/her spouse all along. It is the underlying ‘secret', the obligatory revelation and the tremendous guilt that is bore by both Joe Nast (play by Jake Gyllenhaal in M.M) and Valerie Flake that drives the core of both films. Hence, I can't help but speculate how much of Moonlight Mile is influenced by the earlier film, although it has been said that Silberling's film is based on his personal experiences after the murder of his girlfriend Rebecca Schaeffer.

    ‘Moonlight Mile' is a much better crafted film, in terms of the production values and the high caliber of acting talents, graced with acting heavyweights Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon, Holly Hunter, and the already mentioned Jake Gyllenhaal of ‘Donie Darko' fame. Not to discredit the acting in Valerie Flake, as Susan Traylor did manage a restrained and consistent performance throughout the length of the movie, which keeps me engaged to the story and her character nevertheless. I see it as some sort of a triumph for the underdog, where the likes of Traylor can bag the title role of a movie, playing a sexually charged character that would have traditionally been tailor made to the likes of glossed out beauties ala Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich) or the Jenny from the block. The choice in casting, together with the filming locations, gives Valerie Flake a ‘look' of raw edge, a heightened sense of reality that complements the story. Such elements can never be found in the otherwise bigger and slicker looking Hollywood productions.

    However, the dichotomy of Valerie Flake is that the strengths are also its flaws, given the overall amateur acting, the lazy static camera work, and many other aspects of the production. With a budget of $500,000, I am expecting more from the filmmakers. Look at what Robert Rodriguez can do with $7,000 in `El Mariachi'. The final outcome of Valerie Flake looks more like a final year student project rather than a good independent film made by professionals. Irregardless, credit has to be given to the very original script and Susan Traylor. Themes such as the frustrated artist being unable to relate her work to and communicate with her spouse strike a particular personal chord with me. Weighing the pros and cons, I give `Valerie Flake' a 6 out of 10.
  • I've now seen this movie twice. I still don't know what I've seen. Unusual yes, repetitive yes, boring no, well acted yes, predictable yes, unusual plot no. So how do you evaluate this movie ? See it for yourself, give it time, it will gather your interest, do not expect a lot. While Susan Traylor is not pretty and looks well worn in some scenes, she does have a sexy face and nice body movements, she sure could use some more curves though. Her acting talent is pretty good, although I have never seen her in another movie, so it's hard to judge on the basis of one time. She is this movie, she carries it throughout. The rest of the acting seams pretty good to me and each character adds something to the film. I suggest you watch it..