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Wake Up, Leonard

An LA actor tries to stay mindful in the chaos of this irreverent, modern comedy - from the 30th Raindance Film Festival

Wellness is a billion-dollar industry that wraps a number of our insecurities into a platform to sell you aids of often varying effectiveness. Off-beat comedy Wake Up, Leonard takes a satirical eye at how we approach those ‘cures’, as well as the chaos of modern living.

Nigel DeFriez plays the title role of Leonard, an out-of-work actor shaffling from one residence to another, and constantly seeking to fix his “vibration” through healers, meditation, and self-help tapes. Things seem to be on the up when he scores a big audition and a meet-up with his ex, but his spiralling mental health threatens to plunge those turning points into disaster.

“I know it’s OK to not be OK, but I can’t afford to not be OK today!” is the appropriately baffling cry from the protagonist of this look at living in LA. Improvised mid-pandemic, the sun-bleached streets are pounded by Leonard as he runs from one source of advice to another, all of whom are either unprepared or too self-involved to be effective. The dream sequences are well-placed, providing an amusing juxtaposition between where our ‘hero’ wishes to be, and where he finds himself (“on the wrong side of the butt”, as he puts it).

It’s an interesting look at California culture, but also the wellness trend. Leonard does want to improve his life, but relies on buzzwords and mantras to the extent that he ignores the mistakes he himself is making. The faux sincerity of the people he relies on is also sharply observed. Everyone, including Leonard himself, is rushing from one thing to the next, making many pleasantries a matter of obligation rather than genuine care.

Performance wise, writers/stars DeFriez and Kira Pierson (playing his sister Orla) sparkle in their scenes together, forging a sibling relationship that feels authentic in its strained nature. DeFriez’s manic nature can be hard to sympathise with at times, occasionally making him seem childish as he goes about causing chaos wearing a bow hair clip. However, the subject and dialogue make for a journey that will be familiar to many.

Wake Up, Leonard feels of-the-moment, a comedically disastrous take on a world that offers everything except the time to breathe. A witty comedy that makes the most of its circumstances by taking a look at its surroundings.

Wake Up, Leonard shows at the 30th Raindance Film Festival.

By Victoria Luxford - 21-10-2022

London-born Victoria Luxford has been a film critic and broadcaster since 2007, writing about cinema all over the world. Beginning with regional magazines and entertainment websites, she soon built up...

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