May 14, 2018 Landing Up (Movie Review)
Chrissie. Hailey. Callie. Jessie. Katie. In Landing Up – a brand new Drama that arrives to DVD, On Demand, and digital formats on Tuesday, May 15, 2018, thanks to Random Media and Bold Compass Films – one woman is weaving a tangled web of lies while trying to stay afloat on the dog-eat-dog streets of New York City.
An official selection for both Dances With Films and the 2017 Soho International Film Festival, Landing Up is the story of Chrissie (Stacey Maltin: Guiding Light series, Bro Brunches series), who has come from small-town Ohio to The Big Apple in search of something greater. After being unceremoniously tossed from her current living arrangement back onto the streets, she finds herself back at the local shelter dreaming of the future with her best friend Cece (E’dena Hines: Moll Flanders 1996, 5 Flights Up 2014). Both women are struggling to survive in their own ways, all while saving cash to try and afford their own apartment.
For Chrissie, the struggle largely involves flyer-ing for a local comedy club by day, then trolling the yuppie bars at night. Here, she splashes water on unsuspecting victims in hopes of striking up a conversation, getting free drinks, and ultimately a place to spend the night off the streets. For Cece, much of her time is spent with her IV drug-addicted and severely paranoid boyfriend, James (Dov Tiefenbach: Jason X 2001, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle 2004). While he is certainly not stable or a particularly loving man, he provides Cece with food and shelter, and despite his flaws, she loves him.
As the ladies continue to struggle with their own separate issues, one afternoon in Central Park brings love crashing into Chrissie’s lap in the form of handsome, bourgeoisie David (Ben Rappaport: Mr. Robot series, For the People series), a branding expert born and bred on Lawn Guyland (Long Island). He quickly invites Chrissie for drinks, along with his pal and roommate Avi (Jay DeYonker: Czech Family Saga series, Head short 2016), and the young couple become almost instantly inseparable. The problem? Chrissie isn’t exactly forthright about her current or past struggles, or even, for that matter, her real name.
Clocking in at 98 minutes in-length, Landing Up is a feature-length debut for Director Daniel Tenenbaum (Guides short 2011, The Next Two Nights short 2015), and was written by his wife, Lead Actress Stacey Maltin. The film also stars Grace Capeless (Frozen Fever short 2015, Beaches TV movie 2017), as an adorable little girl who lives at the shelter; James K. Fulater (Scriptless MD series, Women and Sometimes Men 2018), as abusive shelter head, Frank; Theodora Miranne (Person of Interest series, The Blacklist: Redemption series), as David’s sexy co-worker, Lysi; and Neal Lerner (Orange Is the New Black series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt series), as the head of the local comedy club.
Landing Up attempts to dramatically tackle the economic and personal struggles of surviving in the dog-eat-dog world of New York City. Unfortunately, the main character is a woman who garners very little sympathy, as she is somewhat of an alcoholic who loves cocaine, uses men and trades sex for shelter, as well as wanders through the landscape in a self-entitled fog. In fact, when her best friend’s drug-addicted, paranoid and possibly schizophrenic boyfriend has the chance, he is dispensing advice to this young, clueless woman. Which means that, ultimately, the overall impact of the film, so far as any possible emotional gut punches to viewers, is fairly limited. Recent, similar offerings, such as 2018’s Where Is Kyra?, tackle closely-related subject matter and maintain that perfect sucker-punch by presenting characters that are sympathetic, relatable, and therefore more emotionally-charged for impact.
Which is in no way to suggest that Landing Up is bad, it merely misses the emotional impact mark. However, the ensemble cast are a mix of talents that easily keep the story rolling forward, with Rappaport (David) and Hines (Cece) as two of the stand-outs. Rappaport portrays David with a savvy that leaves the character to never feel like a silly trope, but rather a well-rounded, successful young man who is open to finding love wherever it might fall; the proverbial “too good to be true” New Yorker. He is, thus, relatable, if a bit of a mythic unicorn. Hines – granddaughter of Morgan Freeman who was tragically murdered shortly after filming wrapped – also has an accomplished savvy with her troubled character, Cece. Through her talents, we understand that despite being a “shelter baby” who has struggled every single day of her life, Cece still believes in goodness and although she clearly realizes that her boyfriend James is a highly-troubled soul, she tolerates his insanity out of a dedication-filled love. In fact, she is the true sympathetic character here: a woman born into poverty who has spent her entire life toiling away to survive.
In her leading role as Chrissie/Katie, Maltin is a bit of a conundrum. She is exceptionally giddy at points throughout the film, almost clumsily overplaying her character’s scripted advances toward men. Yet, her character is a mixed bag of personalities: a woman who flirts to survive, who says she is willing to stop at absolutely nothing to rise from the chaos, and who wants you to believe that she holds her friend dear and yet is quick to disregard Cece for personal gain. Maltin does the role justice, although several of her initial scenes come across as over-scripted and awkward, particularly her very first on-screen exchange with Hines. The women have a natural chemistry that marks them as friends, and yet their words are too textbook to be believable as a casual conversation on the street.
However, all of these snafus are minor and Landing Up is a solid offering that, amongst other things, boasts an intriguing Indie soundtrack that even smells of New York. Indeed, shot in The Big Apple, Landing Up is not a bad watch by any means, it merely falls short of the emotional impact it was aiming toward. A look at what it means to be homeless and the lengths to which some women will go to appear anything but, this is a film that attempts to pepper some socio-economic commentary into its script and, for this, you have to appreciate the awareness of its creators.
While its release is certainly a bittersweet reminder of the tragic loss of one of its talented stars, Landing Up is a solid offering that does Ms. Hines’ memory proud. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives Landing Up 3.5 of 5 stars.