Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Ryan Gosling To Star In 'Blade Runner 2' Ryan Gosling To Star In 'Blade Runner 2' Watch: New Trailer For 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Flies Into The Galaxy Watch: New Trailer For 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Flies Into The Galaxy Watch: First Teaser Trailer For Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight' Watch: First Teaser Trailer For Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight' 'Macbeth,' Todd Haynes' 'Carol,' Pixar's 'Inside Out' Lead 2015 Cannes Film Festival Line-Up 'Macbeth,' Todd Haynes' 'Carol,' Pixar's 'Inside Out' Lead 2015 Cannes Film Festival Line-Up Watch: Zack Snyder Teases The Full Trailer For ‘Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice' & Upcoming IMAX Event Watch: Zack Snyder Teases The Full Trailer For ‘Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice' & Upcoming IMAX Event Ryan Gosling & Edgar Wright Talk 'Lost River,' Shooting In Detroit, And Advice For First Time Filmmakers Ryan Gosling & Edgar Wright Talk 'Lost River,' Shooting In Detroit, And Advice For First Time Filmmakers Netflix & Marvel's 'Daredevil': The Pros, The Cons, The Verdict Netflix & Marvel's 'Daredevil': The Pros, The Cons, The Verdict Netflix's 'Daredevil' Is An Awesome Achievement And Marvel's Most Graphic & Grounded Effort To Date Netflix's 'Daredevil' Is An Awesome Achievement And Marvel's Most Graphic & Grounded Effort To Date Watch: Action-Packed Footage In 2 New “Avengers: Age of Ultron’ TV Spots, Plus Watch Interviews With The Entire Cast Watch: Action-Packed Footage In 2 New “Avengers: Age of Ultron’ TV Spots, Plus Watch Interviews With The Entire Cast Watch: Trailer For 'The Great Beauty' Director Paolo Sorrentino's 'Youth' Starring Michael Caine & Rachel Weisz Watch: Trailer For 'The Great Beauty' Director Paolo Sorrentino's 'Youth' Starring Michael Caine & Rachel Weisz Joss Whedon Says He's Not Making 'Avengers: Infinity War' Because It's "A Young Man’s Game" Joss Whedon Says He's Not Making 'Avengers: Infinity War' Because It's "A Young Man’s Game" Watch: Take 7 Minutes And Learn The History Of Film Editing Watch: Take 7 Minutes And Learn The History Of Film Editing 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron' Called "Amazing" And "More Emotional" With "Insane Action" After First Screening 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron' Called "Amazing" And "More Emotional" With "Insane Action" After First Screening Joss Whedon Calls 'Jurassic World' Clip "70s Era Sexist" Joss Whedon Calls 'Jurassic World' Clip "70s Era Sexist" The 20 Most Anticipated Films Of The 2015 Tribeca Film Festival The 20 Most Anticipated Films Of The 2015 Tribeca Film Festival The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki

Review: 'City Baby' A Modest, Well-Made Portrait Of A Womanchild Trapped In Portland

The Playlist By Mark Zhuravsky | The Playlist March 30, 2013 at 9:05AM

David F. Morgan's "City Baby" is a modest character study of Cloey (Cora Benesh, who also co-wrote the screenplay), an aspiring...something, boldly going nowhere. With her father (Daniel Baldwin) footing the bills without question, Cloey is free to pursue her relationship with aging rockstar-wannabe Jesse (Andrew Harris) as she perpetually despairs over her life in Portland. When a blown audition call leads to a meet-cute with Michael (Richard Keith), a considerably more on-point ad exec, Cloey juggles competing feelings while attempting to come into her own as a twenty-something layabout. Yes, it's a story that's been told half to death in the last decade or so, but Morgan never lets it get too portentous and Benesh leads a strong cast while turning in a strong performance that's only somewhat undone by an tidy ending that feels out of step with the rest of the film.
0

City Baby
David F. Morgan's "City Baby" is a modest character study of Cloey (Cora Benesh, who also co-wrote the screenplay), an aspiring...something, boldly going nowhere. With her father (Daniel Baldwin) footing the bills without question, Cloey is free to pursue her relationship with aging rockstar-wannabe Jesse (Andrew Harris) as she perpetually despairs over her life in Portland. When a blown audition call leads to a meet-cute with Michael (Richard Keith), a considerably more on-point ad exec, Cloey juggles competing feelings while attempting to come into her own as a twenty-something layabout. Yes, it's a story that's been told half to death in the last decade or so, but Morgan never lets it get too portentous and Benesh leads a strong cast while turning in a strong performance that's only somewhat undone by an tidy ending that feels out of step with the rest of the film.

Despite our impression of the fine city of Portland having been irrevocably tainted by "Portlandia," "City Baby" doesn't do much to buck the trend. In fact, the uniformly vibrant soundtrack might well be composed of local bands that pop up on stage at the clubs our cast weaves in and out of, always in a haze, rarely sober. Cloey is best friends with Paige (Jillian Leigh), a hairdresser with ambitions of making it as a fashion designer in the Big Apple. While Cloey sticks by the milquetoast Jesse, Paige hops from boyfriend to boyfriend until an encounter with Jay (Dustin Rush) suggests something more long-term. 

Morgan and Benesh penned the two storylines to develop concurrently, and Paige's romance occasionally threatens to upstage Cloey's triangle. Benesh is hardly at fault here, embodying the aimlessness and the masked fears that dog Cloey and eventually leave her unmoored and nearly broken. It's just that, despite the muscular lead performance, the character of Cloey is less than likeable and frequently irritating. We understand her indecision and attempts to stave off the trappings of an adult life but if you do not see reflections of yourself in her, she does tend to come off as privileged at best and judgmental and stuck-up at worst. Leigh's Paige fares better because she seems to acknowledge her patterns and flaws, and knows how to use them to her advantage. Leigh does terrific work that suggests a major shift in her perspective despite having to step aside mid-film to let Cloey's story unfold center stage.

Harris as rocker Jesse finds the proper mixture of a man chasing an impossible dream and partner who appears poised to doom his relationship almost as soon as he enters the picture. Jesse is very much Cloey's potential future, a man whose passion comes and goes and whose prospects are less than clear. Keith's Michael, on the other hand, is underdeveloped but charming and a tad manipulative, although how he gets at Cloey is hardly nefarious. His lifestyle is at odds with her personality, but looks are looks and the ad exec is determined to get the woman. It is unfortunate that Michael's storyline simply ends, and a potentially interesting character is left to be nothing more than a stepping stone for our lead.

As "City Baby" wraps up, the film slips into unfortunate fantastical territory where Cloey earns a redemptive ending without much effort on her part. Things simply fall into place after a drunken tryst in a photo studio. We should take a moment to appreciate the fact that while Morgan does include a good deal of nudity in the film, it never feels inorganic or awkwardly staged. No doubt there is a commercial benefit to it but it's also the first time in a long while we've seen a balanced mixture of stylistic and realistic love-making.

It's a solid picture bolstered by the cast and unobtrusive direction, which is a skill in itself. If Morgan and Benesh set out to tell a story of redemption for Cloey, they've succeeded partially. The film's strength lies in its setting and the performances brought to the table. The emotions are palpable and the city's unique tableau well on display. It may not be especially memorable, but you do have to admire a well-made, unpretentious indie of small ambitions. [B]

"City Baby" recently screened at Cinequest and can next be seen at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival.

This article is related to: Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates