Filmmaking on the independent level is truly an unparalleled labor of love, often times without reward. The man hours it takes to conceive a story, write a script, plan and execute a production, edit all elements together and release on whatever scale you can achieve is quite the undertaking. That, in itself, makes the catalog of Jeffrey Garcia quite impressive, as he has managed to continually put out films under his Dream-Atomic production company, often doing the lion’s share of the work himself. His latest offering, Radio Candy, continues down the spectrum we’ve come to know Garcia for, but the years of experience definitely radiate brightly from this project.
Adam (Nix Nova) is a young boy doing his best to overcome a handful of obstacles life has set before him : living under the thumb of his unmotivated Mama Linda (Brian Kennemer) while caring for the aging and unresponsive Grandma Julie (Shauna Nunn), and constantly dealing with bullying from Andrew Carmichael (Chris Morgan). Meanwhile, his uncle Jimmy Sinclair (Justin Conway) is struggling through life as well, having recently lost his job and therefore his sole source of income. While attending a work party with is roommate, Jimmy meets Susan (Grace Marlow), a kind soul recovering from severe injuries she sustained during a vicious fit of laughter. The two hit it off, but when Susan’s Grampa Joe (Grady Roper) suddenly commits suicide, Jimmy decides to take drastic measures to solve his money problems, leading to an armed robbery. With the police hot on his tail, Jimmy crashes at the home of Mama Linda, and his interactions with Adam lead to changes that affect everyone in the family.
Garcia’s trademark use of contrapuntal tone is in full force for Radio Candy, with his humor falling somewhere between Wes Andersonand John Waters. The most extreme characters tend to have a demeanor that falls on the sweeter, more innocent side of the spectrum. In contrast, his antagonistic characters, while initially brute in their nature, usually wind up as passive victims not known for taking drastic action. Many beats that some would consider repulsive or offensive are played effective for humor, sometimes in both an absurdist and direct way in tandem. His ability to handle a large range of characters and character types without losing focus of the main narrative is truly impressive.
Garcia has built himself a reputation for shock value, especially with his last few films, and Radio Candy certainly does not disappoint in picking up and passing that baton. Most any bodily fluid you can imagine is presented on screen at some point, as well as nearly ever part of the human anatomy one can imagine. Many situations tend to escalate from drastic to unimaginably crazy within a matter of moments, and interpersonal interactions between characters (even the ones that seem dull upon initiation) tend to include or end on a note of perversity. All of it is shocking in the most delightful way, like watching a train wreck and knowing that, in the end, nobody ended up hurt.
In regards to casting, a handful of familiar faces blends well with a slew of new faces and recent collaborators from other projects, giving the film a wonderful energy. Nix Nova stands out as Adam, proving his dramatic range and comedic chops to a high degree (and even getting a previous character of his mentioned within the world of Radio Candy). Justin Conway also manages to excel in his role as Jimmy, delivering punchlines with the confidence of a seasoned veteran while managing to make real connections with those he shares screen time with. Brian Kennemer continues to be Garcia’s ace in the hole : an actor who will go to any length (willingly) to bring the vision to life, and will stick the landing while doing so. Shauna Nunn puts on a clinic in regards to minimal approach, somehow managing to be a presence that demands attention even when being one of the most reserved elements on screen. Grace Marlow takes a ridiculous plunge into absurdity, but keeps a compelling grace (no pun intended) in her performance, making her one of the characters you immediately and consistently sympathize with. Other noteworthy and memorable appearances include KJ Avery, Joseph Jackson, Chris Morgan, Grady Roper, and quick cameos from Christopher Paul Cardoza, Jinx Minx and Kaled Namour, among others.
I am curious to see the reaction and reception of Radio Candywhen Jeffrey Garcia decides to share it with the world. It falls wonderfully in line with the cinematic universe he has created and expanded upon, pushing the boundaries and limits of said world to unimaginable ranges. Fans of his previous work should welcome this one with open arms, even if they are slightly rocked in the process.