Uptown is a romantic drama solely covering two people - Ben (Chris Riquinha) and Isabel (Meissa Hampton) - who meet to discuss each others lives, and eventually - their careers. Despite having met on the pretense of Ben wanting her for his movie role, this subplot is mentioned basically twice, and then completely dropped - a strange move that is distracting, when you're trying to pay attention to what the director wants you to focus on.
Which would be the writing, solely (Uptown happens to have been written by the two leads, and the director). To make interesting conversations, you have to be lucky enough to have great writers to script them, and Uptown certainly does. The conversations are realistic, manneristic (thanks to Meissa's twitchy acting), and not poorly delivered as in most low budget films.
So it's especially saddening that so much of the acting and speech is marred by horrible sound editing (or complete lack thereof), and typical spotty camerawork. Uptown makes you understand why bigger budget films tend to do all of their work on sets, rather than actual loud city streets, and inside screeching subway cars. Having to struggle to hear the characters speaking over the unbalanced audio is ridiculous. How Riquinha and Hampton managed to keep a straight face while being drowned out by blaring ambulances and motorcycles is beyond me.
While this problem is major, and exists throughout the film, I can't help but wonder what it sounded like in a theater. Probably much worse, and much more annoying than it will at home, which is saying something. The scenery is beautiful, the audio is horrible. It's hard to say that it's completely the director's fault, aside from choosing to never re-shoot a single scene.
To have a film written by multiple people who also star in it is unique, even in today's time. This pays off. If anything, you'd know what sounds real, and if you wrote it, you could change it on the fly. Thankfully, for Uptown's sake, the conversations often feel improvised, but not so much as to be trivial and boring. The romance takes a more realistic ride, and I was impressed by this as well. It's about time that a romantic drama wasn't xeroxed.
If the director could iron out his weak crew members (or at least keep them from hindering his work so much) in the future, he'll be a great one to keep your eye on.
Available on DVD now, and screening at select festivals soon (See site for details)