In case you’ve never spent any time in Hollywood nor New York or any other big production environment, a regular fixture of inquiries from production companies – usually smaller ones – that bother to float it out there that they’re in the market for a script is that they’re usually looking for a minimum of locations, often three or less. Then of course, movies that end up going into production from said inquiries have to be winning in either writing or casting or both. Because otherwise, you’re watching something that belongs in a bad dinner theatre setting. Not surprisingly, such scripts are pretty rare. Because it takes either raw talent or some pretty good life experience to construct a story that hardly moves anywhere for 90 minutes. Former bathroom attendant turned writer / director / star, George Griffith – it would appear – seems to have both. Because his first film, From The Head, a claustrophobic slice of 90 minutes out of the life of a Manhattan bathroom attendant that rarely leaves the loo, is good entertainment, taken from his own backstory.
Griffith is Shoes, a New York gentleman attendant at a strip club that has seen it all during his three year stint in the bathroom – an anniversary that he’d rather forget, if only his patrons and co-workers would let him. This particular day is like any other, except that it’s going to be twice as long as Shoes has to pull a double. So it’s double the sad sack patrons believing the hookers when they tell them they’re “special”. Double the Wall Street drones bitching / bragging about their lives, double the high rolling Italian wondering about what goes on in the Champagne Room for the $300 fee, double the boyfriend with the hot girlfriend who nonetheless has the wandering eye, double the freshly minted father freaking out about the offspring delivered just 20 minutes prior, double the New York / Boston rivalry, double the gambling co-worker. In other words, double the usual bullshit.
The story doesn’t start out as anything more than this day like any other, but there are deftly subtle instances where Shoes starts contemplating if there’s anything more than this lot he’s chosen. It’s especially puzzling as we discover that the well-read, college-educated Shoes is way too smart to be doing what he’s doing. But what keeps things really interesting, is that the very nicely deadpan performance given by Griffith plays things closely to the vest. Shoes has a very smirky Bruce Willis delivery circa early ’90s, you know, back when it was still fresh and engaging. Shoes is the Joe Hellenbeck of the bathroom attendant world: chronically underachieving in life after an auspicious start, and both loathing himself and yet being resigned himself to his fate. He even makes with the matter-of-fact jokes in one scene like Hellenbeck, except here, there’s no pimp-looking motherfucker waiting to whack him at the end of it.
There really isn’t much more to things than following Shoes in real time as he works out his future when measured against his present situation, which include some family problems, and Shoes entertains and sees to the needs of a veritable parade of patrons. Drive-by appearances as some of these clients include Matthew Lillard, Jon Polito, Tony Longo and Jack Conley among others. Some of the appearances are better than others, some little more than keeping their SAG cards current. The stories from the revolving door of co-stars is wide and varied, including some of the strippers who have to use the mens room when the ladies room craps out – literally.
Really though, From the Head begins and ends with George Griffith, who wrote, shot and starred in a nicely tight – both in physical space and narration – sliver of a man’s life who’s at a crossroads that he didn’t even see coming, and which were based on Griffith’s own experiences. Being a fly on the wall of Shoes’ bathroom on some nights might be a crushing bore, but this particular night, it’s definitely worth it.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars