Yo! San Francisco, Chicago and NYC! Trucking through their nationwide DIY theatrical release, the LA Echo Park set indie rock film, The Crumbles is heading to your cities! This Saturday at the Roxie in San Francisco, May 24 & 27 in Chicago as part of the Asian American Showcase at the Gene Siskel Theater, and June 8 at the Anthology Film Archives in New York. I got a real soft spot for this multi-culti, genuinely captured milieu of working-class artist life in LA, and recommend it heartily.
Darla is a 20something guitarist and songwriter who works at a local bookstore while trying to make moves to fulfill her rocker career aspirations. Caught in a stagnant funk, as she starts getting melancholy, her wild child bestie, Elisa, who plays the keytar, storms back into town following a breakup of her band and boyfriend. Elisa’s effusive spirit is the yin to Darla’s cool chill vibe yang. Both of them share the love of punk rock and in no time the two decide to form a band. Once they audition a cute drummer friend, Dante, they start to jam and find their signature sound under their new name The Crumbles. A couple successful gigs and the band is riding high on the recognition and excitement of being out there doing it. But just as they start getting traction, Elisa’s unpredictability, a competing local band rising faster than them, and other life curveballs, stand in the way of The Crumbles ruling the world, unraveling the loosely held seams of their band’s future.
Skipping the condescension or pretension that’s been typically associated with the Echo Park/Silver Lake hipster scene of late, The Crumbles is instead a damned earnest and sympathetic portrayal of the unwavering creative impulse of the modern struggling artist phenomenon on the eclectic East Side of LA. It’s also like a timeless love letter to the rebellious come hell or high water punk ‘tude and its devotees. It reminds me of Alice Bag’s autobiography, Violence Girl, in which she nostalgically reminisces of the late 70s, when everyone started bands, regardless if they were good or not, and everybody played in each others groups, sometimes changing instruments, and always reveling in the scrappy gigs they could find and promoting them with radical fliers. That spirit echoes through UCLA grad filmmaker Akira Boch’s first feature film.
What it lacks in budget, because indeed this is was a friend-favors-and everyone-pooling-resources production, the film makes up in natural, irresistible youthful charm. The roles are all comfortably inhabited. Katie Hipol who plays Darla is a core member of the famous Teatro Campesino in San Juan Bautista and Elisa is played by Theresa Michelle Lee is a Second City Improv alumnus. The entire cast is a beautiful spectrum of multicultural shades of brown reflecting the diversity more accurately than most films seen in this type of genre. The filmmaker’s genuine grip on the scene is drawn from his real life experience of being in and around a bunch of garage bands. He grew up listening to girl rockers so it was a natural fit to make his lead a female he says in the Directors Notes of the press kit. Add to it a score and soundtrack composed and performed by Grammy winning Quetzal Flores and the film is unbearably original.
The Crumbles evokes a youthful spirit, never-quit energy and casualness to both the dream and harsh realities one navigates day to day in a city like Los Angeles. It’s inspiring and empathetic to the highs and lows of that struggle. With many films romanticizing the struggle of say the folk 60s,70s scene in the hills of Laurel Canyon (usually anglo), this is similarly felt like a unique artistic movement, but a far richer, diverse and uniquely up to the times record. The film reminds me why I love living here. Most of us pursuing creative endeavors don’t do it for the money but for the love. It’s always a challenge to make moves towards achieving the dream though when you got to keep a day job to make rent, like Elisa caving in and getting a minimum wage job (sell my self for $8 hour!, she cries) or Darla’s friends shooting a film at night time guerilla style on a rooftop. Plus if you are entrenched with your artist peers who you most likely tend to gravitate towards in the eclectic, sprawling city of LA, there is always a friend to go support and celebrate with a few beers for doing their film/theater/art performance or production. That support network is vital and if you are lucky reciprocal. The Crumbles offers a glimpse into this way of life and the tribulations that go with it without getting overly tragic. Surviving and flowering at the same time, Akira makes the struggling musician and filmmaker noble and elicits respect. In the film Darla writes a song titled, “I’m an Everyday Girl”. I like to think this introduces a shift from artists who get to develop their voice because they are privileged individuals with the luxury of indulging in creative expression, to the blue collar working class heroine who literally labors for the opportunity to express and share their creativity and hence makes it more relatable and raw.
In true bold punk style, the filmmakers are releasing their film on their own literally taking it on tour across the states. Coming next to San Francisco, Chicago and New York. Check the website for future screenings. Be sure to like the Face and follow on twitter so we can help push a VOD/online release soon. Watch trailer below: