Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

So you’re sitting around minding your own damn business when a title slides towards you that has you a bit a curious. The reason that this film has piqued your interest is because it possesses a fairly hefty cast led by Academy Award winner Forest Whittaker, Academy Award nominee Virginia Madsen – who will always be Helen to us here at the FCU no matter how much fantastic work she may do in her post ‘Candyman’ life, and this film also features the criminally lovely Minnie Driver. The reason this movie puzzles us a bit is because we’ve never heard of it. Not that we’re any kind of ‘insider’ or anything that folks should feel the need to keep us in the loop on what gets made and released, but we are relatively well informed on these kinds of things. One, however, should be aware this film ‘Ripple Effect’, despite its solid cast, actually stars and was directed by some cat named Philippe Caland, and though we’ve never heard of this guy we’ll just go ahead and assume that he’s just one of the many talented and gifted people that exist out there who we just haven’t had the pleasure of seeing in action. After actually watching ‘Ripple Effect’ I’m afraid that would be a poor assumption on our part. And though you would think we would have learned our lesson about making assumptions, we’re going go ahead and make another one. We assume that the reason we had never heard of this movie ‘Ripple Effect’ is because it sucks ass. That’s what we’re going to assume today.

Caland plays the role of asshole fashion director Amer Atrash whose business seems on the constant verge of total collapse, not the least of the reasons being that Atrash is a comprehensive no account jerk. Since Atrash works so hard to keep his business afloat, he completely neglects his lovely wife Sherry (Madsen) to the point that he has obviously forgotten her name since only refers to her as ‘baby’ all the time. He’s also neglecting his four year old daughter who strangely enough also seems to be named ‘baby’.

Since he is in such dire straits, Atrash is forced to track down and old but filthy rich buddy of Gatesian proportions named Brad (John Billingsly) who he was a total ass to fifteen years ago, but here he is now begging for money. The good thing is that Brad is such a sweetheart that he doesn’t hesitate to float Atrash the loan, the bad thing is that Atrash has an asshole level so high that he can’t manage to get of his own way, unfortunately sending the deal straight into the crapper despite Brad’s meager request.

The question is why is this Lebanese immigrant with the hot wife, the cute kid and tons of loyal employees such a jerk? The reason is a tragic event that occurred between a guy named Philip (Whittaker) that he met some years ago via the hood of his car and the guilt that Atrash has been carrying around ever since then. Now to cure himself of his asshole-mania Atrash must face the man he put in a wheelchair some years ago, and also face this man’s whore of a folk singing wife Kitty (Driver), and hope for that there is forgiveness in their hearts.

To the benefit of Caland and his film ‘Ripple Effect’ it didn’t suck immediately. As the film started, it looked as if it had some worth and that something of some consequence would eventually happen, but about a half an hour in it became fairly clear that the movie had gotten about as good as it was going to get. ‘Ripple Effect’ actually felt like a Film School student film because there was a staged unauthenticated feel to the whole production with it’s sitcom style lighting, shaky framing and lethargic pacing. The narrative, as it were, was completely uninvolving and either lacked substance or perhaps was so filled with substance that it simply went over my simple ability to comprehend it. Since the film was almost completely dialog driven and this dialog was poorly written and didn’t sound like anything that anybody born of woman would actually say, the movie was dull to distraction. Yes the film was filled with great actors, and not only the afore mention Whitaker, Driver and Madsen, but also lesser know solid character actors such as John Billingsly, Kip Pardue and Kali Rocha among others, but since most of these fine actors were saddled with either banal dialog or sappy New Age-esque speak, which admittedly could very well be enlightening to you, but was pointless drivel to me. Worst still is that despite the presence of these top-line actors, Philippe Caland was the lead and dominated most of the screen time but unfortunately he’s just not much of an actor, which is only exacerbated by the fact that he’s going toe to toe in a couple of scenes with Forest freaking Whitaker.

I hate too be too hard on this movie because it’s apparent that this was a labor of love for Caland and his crew, and he must be a really great guy to convince some of his good friends, who happen to be famous talented actors, to participate in his project but that still doesn’t excuse how lame the project was. I mean I have a couple of ideas floating around in my head too, but if I get within 500ft of Virginia Madsen I’ll be picking up trash on the side of the freeway for the next ten months. Mr. Caland is probably a very nice man with a lot of considerable talents, it just seems judging from ‘Ripple Effect’ that acting, writing and directing aren’t among those talents.

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