STUCK ON NEAL
I was first introduced to the work of Faustus McGreeves and Aaron Gum via their production of the horror film ENDOR. Being genuinely impressed with the quality and talent coming from this Omaha-based team, I was interested in seeing other films that the team may have produced.
I learned that ENDOR was the team’s second feature film. Their first was an ultra-low budget romantic comedy called STUCK ON NEAL. Genuinely interested in seeing what could possibly be made on pretty much talent alone, I requested a screener of the film, as it is only now being toured in the Midwest as I write this.
So, let’s get to the review…
**WARNING–THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS**
STUCK ON NEAL is a story about friendship at its core and how sometimes we love our friends in a way that surprises us, especially if we lose them suddenly. No, this is not a story about a friend dying but about going through a midlife crisis and rethinking one’s identity and place in life.
The film centers around Rob (played by Faustus McGreeves) and Neal (played by Darrick Silkman), two old pals (not really ‘old’, but thirty-something friends) who knew each other for years. We learn that Rob is married to Neal’s sister Lisa (played by Chelsea Wagoner) and that Neal is a lonely single guy stuck in a rut. Neal and Lisa also recently lost their father to cancer, making things hard for both of them.
One of Rob and Neal’s annual rituals is to go camping. This is their 17th year doing the trip. During this outing, Neal reveals that he wonders if he might be gay because of how much trouble he has meeting the right woman. Rob tries to reassure him that he isn’t but Neal presses Rob to ‘experiment’ and try kissing a guy. Since the two are out in the woods, Rob agrees to Neal’s experiment and the two kiss.
Neal realizes that was probably a bad idea, but this leaves his buddy Rob confused.
Another thing developed during the camping trip was that Neal wanted to see if Rob could ‘hook him up’ with Lisa’s best friend Ariel (played by Andrea Erickson) to give dating another try. Rob agrees and that is that.
Neal and Ariel quickly hit it off, and as a consequence, Rob begins to see less and less of his friend. This affects Rob and has collateral impact on other areas of Rob’s life, like his marriage, his kids and his social routines.
The acting dynamic between Rob and Neal (McGreeves and Silkman) is really good. Equally acted is how Neal and Ariel (Erikson) work on camera with each other as a boyfriend/girlfriend growing in love and how McGreeves and Lisa (Wagner) reflect their emotions as a married couple dealing with issues. In other words, strong acting and believable drama.
Rob must go on with his life, but some emotions are destructive, which in turn creates true challenges with the people who love him, and ultimately causes real and serious issues with Neal, but you will have to watch the film to understand how this plays out.
I started this review by classifying the film as a romantic comedy, but it is equal parts drama and great story telling at its core. I am pleasantly surprised that STUCK ON NEAL took this type of subject matter (friendship love versus real love versus unexamined life issues) and presented it tastefully and with dignity. This is a very well made film and considering the very low cost to make, I am genuinely and pleasantly surprised with how well it delivered. It is well written, well shot and well acted.
If you are a fan of solid stories, independent film and are looking for something a little bit off the beaten path, this film won’t let you down.
Highly recommended. – GARY LEE VINCENT
(Reviewer’s note: the film’s original title was BENT OVER NEAL, but was updated during editing to remove more explicit scenes and appeal to a broader viewing audience. The film I screened was the softer STUCK ON NEAL edition of the film.)