First of all, the editing. Oh my god was this thing overly edited. Especially in the first act. The editor wouldn't stop jumping all over the place between medium shots, close ups, and war flashbacks. It was disorienting. Just let the scenes breath. There's also a lot of unnecessary cut aways to Sky doing something pretentious. Like sitting in front of that cafe with his dog. The music choices were very strange and unmotivated as well. During the Q&A I asked Martha Pinson about why she chose to put Queen and David Bowie's "Under Pressure" in the taste test scene and I was really disappointed. She basically said it was because they knew a guy who knows Queen so it was easy to get the rights. Just-because-you-can isn't really a good reason to place a great song in a random scene. If anything "Under Pressure" belongs in the end of the movie because of its feeling of resolve and coming together after a struggle.
Now for the writing. The movie took too long to get to what it's about. I'm not even sure Pinson knows what the movie is about. I think it's about a guy in a wheel chair who wants to open a restaurant with his girlfriend. That's the strongest narrative thread in the whole thing. However, nothing in the first 30 minutes suggests that is what it's about. It meanders and takes too long to get to the point. I don't care how Tesla meets Katie. I don't care how he meets Sky. Way too much time is spent on the war stuff. All those things are just exposition stretched out longer than necessary. I found it interesting how Pinson said the script was originally much longer and it had to be condensed. Instead of condensing it, she should've just cut out the first chunk. Then there would be a slightly more functional story arc.
As soon as I learned that the guys who played Tesla and Sky wrote the screenplay, things started making a lot more sense. This is clearly their vanity project. One wanted to play a depressed war vet in a wheelchair and the other wanted to play a reckless 1970s guy with a lot of money and AIDS. They decided to come together and make an excuse to play their two-dimensional dream roles! Oh also their characters both have hot girlfriends. Tesla gets multiple sex scenes with his.
Another issue was a major lack of stakes. Tesla is just shoved into having to work at that restaurant, it's not even his own decision. So what if he gets fired from that kitchen? The old guy just gives him his business in the end after Tesla barely does anything to prove himself. What exactly is the issue if he can't function in a traditional kitchen? If he gets his own restaurant, he can have the kitchen designed to accommodate his disability. Why doesn't Sky just go to the doctor? Why should I care if he dies? Nothing he does in this movie makes him likable. By the way, who orders food like that? Let everyone at the table pick what they want. Don't just give the waiter a vague list of requirements. What if someone's allergic to shellfish and the waiter brings them lobster?
There were also a lot of little things that Katie does that bothered me. On the first date, why does she put her hand on Tesla's wheel instead of on his hand or his shoulder like a normal person? Does she have a fetish for handicapped men? That would make sense since they don't have a lot in common. Why doesn't she offer to help Tesla up the stairs? Does she like to watch him struggle? Why does she agree to the restaurant job on Tesla's behalf? Couldn't she have checked with him first? How does she not understand why Tesla, a war vet with PTSD, could be triggered in that art exhibit full of guns, bullets, and skulls? This kind of connects to the lack of stakes again because I don't like her character. Why should I care if they break up? She's a bad girlfriend. Is she even contributing to the business they're trying to open?
I will give the movie this, it got made. The overall production value doesn't look terrible and I guess it's an okay starting point for Martha Pinson's career in directing features. More thought should have been put into the screenplay and the final cut. Despite all this I can't really hate the movie. I do think it's well intentioned in how it tries to destigmative HIV and people with disabilities. It's weird being a young film student watching an experienced professional's film and writing a better movie in my head.