Pasadena is a realistically sophisticated script in terms of emotional causality and the nuanced depiction of the character’s lives and dynamics, even if the dramatic drivers are collectively improbable. Writer/director Will Slocombe is often subtle with indicators to ride the film’s vicissitudes, and the narrative is so dense with them it can be difficult to thoroughly sponge up in one pass – I still wonder over Lindsay’s stance toward the physical Nina-Deborah conflict, and why does Poppy confide in the clearly unreliable Nina? A strong dynamic of Slocombe’s approach is his effective use of action as non-verbal implicator and symbolism; a brilliant example is Nina and Lindsay’s yoga scene, which is a powerful determinant of Nina’s wasted precociousness.
The film is unorthodox in mood. The score is stylized, rolling and even whimsical, with an ironic rendition of “Keep on the Sunny Side,” while the story is grappling with serious bearings and definitively positioning the tension of social elephants in the room, but without attributing the emotional weight. The deadpan delivery of both comedy and consequence is a macro-semblance of Bogdanovich’s Poppy himself, but aurally, the film is a projection of Nina. It’s her character’s presence alone that lends validity to the tone set by the score, an interesting facet in view of actress Alicia Witt’s musical contributions.
The movie is well acted, and Slocombe comfortably utilizes close ups and timed cut-away to accentuate the performances. Nearly every character, with the exception of Jacob’s girlfriend, was distinctive in personality and had presence. In a film unfolding within a single locale, the audience’s interests are volleyed by the essentials of character, and only once, when Jacob cries at the end, did the delivery drop the ball.
The film is an exposition of family, with flair of caricature and dripping with implication. There is no major action within the story, so for comprehensive enjoyment, it’s necessary to connect in interest with each character and with the familial prospect collectively. I don’t believe the masses will do so, therefore Pasadena is not for everyone. I believe impatient or flighty viewers won’t invest what the film requires, but those who do will respect the command of insinuation early in the film and control over the delicate tone. If Slocombe had pulled too hard on any of the mood’s angles, the presentation easily could have crumbled, but he walks the line, albeit unconventionally; but, that in itself may prove the most promising indicator in his young career.