By Don Heckman
The tease line for the film Remembering Phil is “Even in Hollywood, you never know how your own script will end.” And that’s pretty much on target for a picture about a screenwriter who unexpectedly finds himself in a real life version of a story he may well have written. Except for the fact that he has no idea where it’s going or how it’s going to end.
Phil Winters, played with utter believability by Nicholas Turturro, returns from a vacation to discover that there doesn’t appear to be any prior record of his existence. His suitcase has disappeared from the luggage pick up at LAX. He has no email or voice messages. There’s no one he recognizes – or who recognizes him – at the production studio he’s been working at for years.
It’s not until he makes a stop in a bar for a recuperative drink that someone actually calls his name. It’s a young, attractive woman named Debbie, perfectly played by Christina Murphy, who claims that she is Phil’s daughter by a college romance. Phil knows it’s both impossible and absurd. But, lacking options, desperately aware that Debbie is the only person who seems – for whatever reason – to recognize his existence, he sticks with her.
And that’s where things become even more complicated. Phil hangs on for dear life as he follows Debbie into the dark corners of L.A. on a journey that brings him more self revelation than he thinks he can handle.
It’s a compelling story, atmospherically directed by Brian Smith to a well-paced screenplay by Michael Katz, filled with unexpected twists and turns before its startlingly revelatory ending. And it derives a good portion of its dramatic pacing from the musical score by Nic tenBroek.
Jazz-driven film scores have had their day over the years, especially in the ‘50s and ‘60s. But beyond exceptions such as Terence Blanchard’s scores for Spike Lee’s films, they haven’t been showing up much lately. So it’s a distinct pleasure to hear how effectively tenBroek has used written and improvised passages to underscore both the picture’s intimate character interaction and its full range of Los Angeles settings.
Played by the stellar ensemble of pianist Todd Chochran, saxophonist/flutist Bob Sheppard, drummer Roy McCurdy and bassist John B. Williams (with pianist Michael Wolff present on one of the most significant cues), the music has a life of its own. So much of a life, that — heard on the film’s soundtrack album — it surfaces as an appealing jazz recording, completely apart from its excellence as a film score.
The DVD of “Remembering Phil” is available at Amazon.com. The sound track CD is available digitally from iTunes, Amazon mp-3 and CD Baby, and physically from CD Baby. For more information about the film and the soundtrack click HERE.