Sal Review – Sorry Sal, This Will Make You Roll Over In Your Grave

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Sal,” from RabbitBandini Productions in association with Made in Film-Land, chronicles the last day in the life of murdered Academy Award nominee and former teen matinee idol Sal Mineo, who died a victim of random violence.

Directed by James Franco “Sal” stars Val Lauren as Sal Mineo, and also stars James Franco, Vince Jolivette, Jim Patrick, Trevor Neuhoff, Stacey Miller and Raymond T. Williams. “Sal” was written by Stacey Miller.

Sal Minoe, a former teen matinee idol, who worked alongside James Dean, in “Rebel Without a Cause” and opposite Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint in “Exodus” was stabbed to death, in an apparent stealth strike outside in apartment in West Hollywood, California.  

Franco doesn’t sugarcoat the life or lifestyle of gay Mineo and unfortunately he doesn’t sweeten up the film at all.

The initial twenty-five minutes of “Sal” went from scene to blank black screen, one would suspect representing a punctuation or separation in sequences.

We’re not movie neophytes. Movie goers understand segue way between scenes without the serial explanations posing as a blank black frame. Stop scene, blank void, scene, black - and just so we really understand, unsure if this was Mr. Franco’s need or if for some reason it made it all the way through post, with another indicator of just where we are in the movie, the additional writing on the scene, a tell tale sign of exactly where we are in the film process.

“Sal” has gay themes, so as a heterosexual, unsure if this is for gay men only, to see Sal’s bulging muscles as he lifts weights, hear Sal strain and grunt, as he lifts even heavier weights, yea, yea, I got it. Sal works out. See Sal work out.

Vicariously, I guess for the guys who, according to Sex in City have sex at the gym, being turned on by the sweaty, straining and grunting of a man at the gym is the adrenaline shot needed to maintain attention. Okay, whatever.

After this dull and slow beginning we are treated once again, to very long sequences, where is the whammy? Frame after dull frame of Sal, working out at the gym and next, See Sal in bed, Sal is waking up, frame after frame of Sal waking up, walking to pee, walking to the fridge, drinking milk and orange juice from the container as the juice runs from the corner of his mouth, hoping back into bed (alone).

Very s-l-o-w. So slow on the scope of slow, it makes slow look fast.

By the twenty-five minute mark – no whammy’s, no three minute hit of movie goer adrenaline, (I’d take a seven minute hit ) something that grabs my attention, anything, see Sal wake up naked bearing his buns as he walks to pee, whammy, a wake and bake scene, whammy, something to liven up this laborious scene, someone in bed with him, whammy.

The film is clear Sal Mineo was gay and smokes pot. Having gay porn in the home, as was the case when investigators searched his apartment after the murder or other creative license could go a long way to liven the film up.

After twenty-five minutes I wanted to be put out of my misery.  I took a break right as Sal was explaining the sounds of Sal’s sex with a stranger. I returned the next evening, hoping for better results. Unfortunately my initial reaction wasn’t changed by a magical rebirth, with witty dialogue and snappy action, some thirty minutes into the film

Val Lauren seems to capture the unexciting mix of everyday life in LA for a former Oscar nominee looking to transition into the sexual 1970’s as a gay man who didn’t need to hide. Embracing the freedom privately and living publically obviously two different concepts and both were captured well.

I’m not sure why Mr. Franco  felt the need to overplay “stereotypical” gay actions. Maybe he isn't sure the duality necessary to maintain a gay lifestyle in the 1970's before equality. Possibly he is flirting with sexual orientation themes to bring in a wider fan base.  I do believe the film is supposed to contain a noir feel, although it does not have the elements for true noir.

With “Sal” film in Los Angeles, and the lush scenery available, as they did drive through the hills it would have been a nice addition to add the beauty of LA.

Much of the film includes very tight face shots. No wide angle dinner scenes capturing both men in the booth discussing the screenplay. So close, you can see the seeds in the cucumber being eaten, the food sitting in the man’s mouth as he recites his lines.

It is also important to note the initial twenty-five minutes deals with a picture deal and the adamant request by Sal of no script doctor, three drafts later, where the movie opens, honestly should have been Mr. Franco’s same thought before moving ahead with this film.

“Sal” is a very intimate portrayal, with too much information, so much so that it may not be for all audiences.

I not sure who gave the go ahead for production. I wonder if there is some ulterior motive to create such an unflattering piece of work? Do the powers that be want Mr. Franco to stay within the lines? If this is any indication I would say yes.

“Sal” opens in select cities November 1, 2013.


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