Since 2002, when Angela Bettis made what was in my opinion, a star-making role as May Canady in the indie horror-comedy-drama May (if you haven’t seen this film, go check it out right now – really, you can stop reading this review and go see May instead, I won’t be offended), I’ve been waiting for her next impressive turn. Unfortunately, it seems like this next gig is not to be. After the shoddy and poorly received made-for-tv Carrie remake, Bettis hasn’t received any major opportunities (or even minor opportunities in major productions). Despite a unique brand of intense strength and delicate vulnerability, Bettis has been stuck on the sidelines of Hollywood. So, when I saw that this film - All My Friends Are Funeral Singers - was receiving positive press at film festivals (SXSW, Sundance, Sarasota) I was excited. Unfortunately, this film, though artfully interesting in its own way, is nothing to get excited about.
Bettis is as good as ever as Zel, a lonely fortune teller living in an old family house that’s inhabited with a bounty of eclectic ghosts. There’s a full band (comprised of the members of the real-life band Califone, who also created the score for the film), a preacher, a clown, and several others, including a mute young girl. It’s an interesting premise, but extended jam sessions by the band, awkward direct-to-camera interview scenes with the ghosts, and overall poor film quality really cut down on the enjoyability of the film. The story that revolves around Zel and the ghosts could stand to be fully fleshed out a bit more, and perhaps a few more fortune telling clients could stop by throughout the course of the film (as it stands, a middle-aged widow stops by occasionally to “speak” with her deceased husband, and a creepy gambler stops by to get tips on horses). Additionally, the ending feels a bit rushed. It comes close to wrapping things up cleanly, but ultimately falls short. The entire plot feels a bit under-developed and the film feels more like a Califone showcase than a true film in its own right.
All My Friends Are Funeral Singers isn’t a bad movie, it’s just relatively uninteresting and moderately self-indulgent. Fans of the band Califone will perhaps appreciate the movie exclusively for its score – there are also a few Califone-specific special features included on the DVD. For the general film-going populace, though, there’s not much to recommend. Here’s to hoping Angela Bettis is offered better opportunities in the future.
Zach’s Rating: D
Perfect For: Califone fans looking for more visuals with the music
Stay Away if: You’re hoping Angela Bettis finally found a film to turn her career around
To purchase All My Friends Are Funeral Singers, visit Amazon