The tourists, siblings named Atsuko and Rintaro (Atsuko Okatsuka and Rintaro Sawamoto), have wandered into town to wait for their broken-down rental car to be replaced. Speaking little English, they are taken under wing by a wannabe model and actor, Cory (Cory Zacharia), and in the pleasant minor adventures that follow, Littlerock exudes a low-key confidence that won me over.
(I was spurned.)
Even for a film that does youthful dallying well, Littlerock has an unfortunate lack of focus. Just as Atsuko discovers an ability to disarm the young men around her — angering Rintaro, who drives on to the next destination without her — the film drowns her with extraneous material. Characters emerge and drift away; throwaway lines, like Cory’s father’s suggestion that he go turn tricks with the “pretty boys” on the Sunset Strip, make dark allusions that float off unexamined. Potential subplots, such as a stale one involving money Cory owes to a pair of local drug pushers, never gel. In this dreary middle section, Atsuko becomes a foil for Cory’s painful earnestness, which Zacharia plays with contorted face and high voice. “Would you rather kiss Jordan than me?” he whines. “I’m telling you how I feel, and it’s like you don’t even care!” The film’s weakest link, he never convinces as either loyal friend or potential love interest — against Atsuko’s grace, Cory’s just a brat.
When Rintaro returns and tells his sister it’s time to get the show on the road, it’s a relief. As Atsuko walks her bike along a dirt path in the gloaming, teary eyes catching the last light, Littlerock rekindles somewhat, but the momentum’s already gone. She’s crying over the aforementioned Jordan, who earlier gave her a mixtape titled “Limerence.” I looked it up, thinking I’d find some hip band I’d never heard of, but it turns out limerence is a psychological term. It refers to the overwhelming need to have one’s feelings reciprocated by those with whom we fall in love. I guess Littlerock had me feeling a little limerent myself: I wanted so much for it to be as good as it promised, but in the end I was left holding the bag.
Littlerock opens today at Laemmle Sunset 5 in Los Angeles.
[Trailer and photo courtesy of Small Form Film]