In the press notes for California Solo, writer-director Marshall Lewy defines “FEAR” as an acronym that can mean either: "fuck everything and run" or “face everything and recover.” Perhaps, more than anything, that is the underlying theme of his new movie. The movie, which stars Robert Carlyle in a mesmerizing performance as a faded former Britpop rocker haunted by his past, opens November 30 in New York at the Quad Cinema, in Los Angeles December 7 at the Nuart, and wider after that.
I'd seen California Solo earlier this year at the small, but growing Chicago Independent Movie and Music Festival (Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh sits on its board), but the venue was not ideal for experiencing the film (the sound system, particularly was inadequate). The wider release after premiering as an Official Selection at Sundance earlier this year provided me the opportunity to take another (and deeper) look, at the movie.
When we meet the movie’s central character Lachlan MacAldonich, whom Carlyle infuses with equal portions of self-loathing and charm, he is living a comfortably numb existence. “And,” according to Lewy, suddenly that path no longer works for him. “The movie is really about acceptance,” of that, he told me during a phone interview last week. That concept of "FEAR," the journey from one understanding of it to the other is at the heart of the film. “I don’t know that I knew that when I started, at least consciously," he told me. "But by the time we got to the editing process, that was really the word that stuck in my head. And I think that facing your fear is a lot, very much that journey of acceptance.” In a way, we are dropped into Lachlan's life in the middle of a (very) dark night of the soul.
Carlyle is perfectly cast as Lachlan, the Scottish former lead guitarist in a “big deal” ‘90s British rock band, the Cranks. The band’s real “big deal” was Lachlan’s older brother, the Cranks lead singer Jed, who died tragically of a drug overdose years earlier in L.A.
By night, Lachlan hosts a rather morbid podcast called Flameouts, honoring the world’s great musicians, tragically dead before their time: from T-Rex's Marc Bolan, to that most tragic of composers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. But, the one flameout Lachlan’s not yet profiled is Jed; the memory of his brother’s death is still too keen and raw, even more than a decade later, as Lachlan feels responsible (with good reason) for the overdose that killed him.