‘Occupy, Texas’: A slacker grows up, against his will

by JAY LUSTIG
Gene Gallerano co-stars with Catherine Elvir, left, and Lorelei Linklater in "Occupy, Texas."

Gene Gallerano co-stars with Catherine Elvir, left, and Lorelei Linklater in “Occupy, Texas.”

It’s seven years after the Occupy Wall Street movement petered out, and Beau, who came from Texas to take part in the protests, is still living in New York. He’s homeless or, as he prefers to say, “occupying the sidewalk.”

Then his parents die in a car accident, and he has to come home to assume guardianship of his 17- and 12-year-old sisters. And, maybe, reintegrate himself into mainstream society.

That’s the plot of “Occupy, Texas,” which will be shown in New Brunswick, June 4, as part of the opening weekend of this summer’s New Jersey International Film Festival.¬†Think of it as a Lone Star version of the 2004 Zach Braff movie, “Garden State.” A¬†hip alt-rock soundtrack sets the mood as its dazed, lost hero undertakes his journey of self-discovery, in a place that should feel like home but in fact feels something like Mars.

Will man-child Beau grow up and do right by his adorable siblings? You can probably guess the answer¬†‚ÄĒ he’s irresponsible, but not a monster. And that’s fine, since¬†the film is really a character study.¬†Director Jeff Barry is more interested in following Beau (played by Gene Gallerano)¬†make slow progress¬†‚ÄĒ he’s a¬†one-step-up, two-steps-back¬†kind of guy¬†‚ÄĒ¬†than in building real suspense.

The film also doesn’t have a lot to do with Occupy Wall Street, or the difficulties of an activist’s life. It soon becomes clear that Beau didn’t really go to New York to make a difference, but to escape the difficulties of his life in Texas. When he mumbles something to his no-nonsense aunt Uma (played by Peri Gilpin, of television’s “Frasier”) about wanting to “get back to the movement,” she gives him a withering look and says, sarcastically, “Right.”

She sees through him, and so do we.¬†Despite Beau’s professed¬†commitment to his¬†cause, he has no problem accepting, with a shrug, the¬†upper middle class¬†lifestyle¬†that circumstances have led him too. What’s waiting for him in New York other than a bit of pavement to sleep on and a movement that no one cares about anymore?

Gallerano also wrote the screenplay, and¬†demonstrates a nice ear for the snarky slang that modern teenagers such as Beau’s sisters Claire and Arden (played by Lorelei Linklater and Catherine Elvir, respectively) use. He and Barry also have Claire, realistically enough, spend most of her screen time glued to her cell phone.

Gallerano’s¬†attempts to have Beau engage in real dialogue with other adults are less successful, since Beau’s quite handy with a quick insult, but not really able to explain himself in any depth, or with any eloquence. But I guess that’s part of the character’s essence: He¬†still acts like a selfish, inarticulate teenager, though he really should be beyond this, at this point in his life. Ultimately, this is a guy who is¬†just as likely to annoy you as he is to charm you.

Gallerano and Barry will introduce the film and participate in a Q&A session at Voorhees Hall on the Rutgers University Campus in New Brunswick, June 4 at 7 p.m. Three shorts will also be shown.

The main film at the same location June 5 is “The Other Kids,” which is about high school students in California, and mixes documentary and fiction.

The festival runs through June 18; for information, visit njfilmfest.com.

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