12th Jan2018

‘Madtown’ Review

by Philip Rogers

Stars: Milo Ventimiglia, John Billingsley, Bonita Friedericy, Rachel Melvin, Amanda Aday | Written and Directed by Charles Moore


A troubled young man flashes back to the demons of his past when his sister is released from her twenty-year prison sentence for the murder of their parents. He must confront his estranged sister and deal with the past, while fighting to protect his future and the life he has rebuilt for himself.

Denny (Milo Ventimiglia) has had troubled life, but after lying about his experience on his CV, he gets an opportunity to have a fresh start working as a waiter in a family restaurant. Welcomed as if part of the family by the restaurant the owners Lloyd Zane Miller (John Billingsley) and Linda Miller (Bonita Friedericy), they soon become a makeshift version of the parents he never had. A bond soon develops with his colleagues in the restaurant, which includes fellow waitress Sarah (Rachel Melvin) which he feels could be develop into something more. But no matter how fast as Denny tries to move forwards, he remains unable to escape his past. When his sister his sister Madison (Amanda Aday) is released from prison, having served a twenty-year sentenced for the murder of their parents, she moves in with Denny – although she has no intent on staying. Looking for an opportunity to forget the past and jealousy towards her brother, Madison is fixated on moving to Chicago to start a new life and dictates that Denny will be coming with her. Torn between the new life he has made for himself and loyalty to his sister, Denny must come to terms with his past before he fights for his future.

Madtown is an exceptional new indie drama, which is driven by the script and the strong emotional performances from the cast. Director Charles Moore strips away the reliance on stunning visuals and overcomplicated plots, by focusing on the interaction of the actors as the story takes time to unfold.

Milo Ventimiglia gives a brilliantly understated performance as Denny. His awkward silences and heavy eyes, portraying the weight of his past which are burdened on his shoulders. As the film progresses we get glimpses of his troubled past through flashbacks and distorted dreams, which gradually begins to uncover a darker truth.

Denny dreams of being a stand-up comedian and often listens to his collection of old comedy EP’s, most notably a stand-up performance from Lenny Bruce. Excerpts from some of Lenny’s live performance are skilfully used in the film to create a subtle subtext, a reflection of Denny’s current emotional look on life as it gradually changes throughout the film. Denny remains central to the film, but the script incorporates all of the characters into the story, with each of them having an impact on his life in the build-up of events. Even a short interaction with Sarah’s daughter gives Denny a glimpse of what a new life could represent.

There were so many strong performances from the cast, but I was really impressed with Amanda Aday. Despite only having a limited time on screen, she had made a strong impact on the film as Denny’s sister Madison Briggs. In a deeply emotional performance Amanda really encapsulates the frustration and anger she has built up over the years and you can sense her desperation as she tries to cling onto the one thing that she still has – her brother.

The film is most effective during the more serene moments, where Denny is in conversation one on one with the other characters, even though he remains somewhat guarded regarding his true emotions. Whether it be an awkward interaction with his sister who he no longer feels a connection with, or the moments of guidance when talking with Lloyd as a father figure. The interactions build on the dramatic performances that draw you into the moment which continue to keep you engaged.

Madtown is a slow burning drama from writer and director Charles Moore, which keeps you engaged throughout the film. Taking time to develop the characters with a warmth and humour which makes you really care what happens to them, as it leads up to the films unexpected conclusion. I am expecting some great films in 2018, but Madtown sets the bar as something highly recommended.

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