The City as an Abyss of Dreams: Michael Chrisoulakis’s Los Angeles Overnight

Reviewed by Alci Rengifo

Los Angeles. The city is damned and neon-lit, devourer of the modern-day wanderer in search of gold and social stability, like some hip reincarnation of the Conquistadors. Pauline Kael once wrote that L.A. is the city “where people have given in to the beauty that always looks unreal.” This is ever so true about those glassy-eyed souls who leave home to settle into this pitiless city to make a dream reality, or at least come close to touching it. Director Michael Chrisoulakis’s Los Angeles Overnight is a true and raw portrait of the spirit of LA, even if the film masquerades as an engaging dark comedy — which it no less is. Flirting with surrealism, this low-budget film moves with an immersive energy and a dark heart. It takes the romanticized image of the struggling artist trying to get a call back and twists it back into its true self, full of despair and willing to indulge in the criminal netherworld.

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Arielle Brachfeld as Priscilla

Arielle Brachfeld plays Priscilla, a character you have met before at some point in your life. She spends most of her days seeking auditions, hoping for that one door that will open itself for her into the world of stardom. To pay the bills she waitresses at a diner named after Marilyn Monroe. She has little choice than to trust in her agent, who councils her to “stop sweating desperation and start sweating ‘come hither.’” A motivational ambiance comes from Priscilla’s hypnotherapist, Vedor Ph.D., played by Peter Bogdanovich, who brandishes statements such as, “You expand, feel the ocean inside, every ounce of you hungry, not for food, but for sustenance.” There is scant hope for romance in the form of Benny (Azim Rizk), a somewhat clueless mechanic with a good heart. When Priscilla overhears some offbeat patrons at the diner speak of a plan in strange, coded lingo, she follows their clues on her own. It results in an opportunity to fund her dreams with ill-gotten gains, though nothing in this city, and especially in noir, is free. This is particularly true when she finds her takings belong to a ruthless, local gangster by the name of Wooks (Julian Bane).

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JamieLee Ackerman

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