Cinema Signal:

Teenage Rebellion

. "Garmento"

The writer-director of this satirical piece about the fashion industry, Michele Maher, may have worked for three years in the Seventh Avenue garment district of New York, but the experience was clearly no training ground for writing or directing a film. Given the package of movie-making resources on tap here, including a fair cast, her scenes are listless, choppy and without a discernable cinematic style. Makes one wonder who thought she had the credentials to make a film.

The effort comes off as the work of an ensemble of actors that did their best without qualified leadership. Oddly, they manage to manufacture a scattered level of interest. Given the loose guidance, it's almost a surprise that it works at all.

To tell the story of shady, desperate business practices, the garment trade is represented by a fictional fashion house, that of Poncho Ramirez Inc., which has come a long way down from its trend-making perch of prior years. When we meet designer Poncho Ramirez (Juan Hernandez), we see a man clinging to the iconic image his past glories have afforded him. But he seems incapable of finding a new direction that might recapture his market and rescue his company.

Is he the "garmento" of the title, a dickering clothing salesman who thinks it's more about the dollar than the design? Or, does the title apply to the takeover artist, Ira Gold (Jerry Grayson) whose scruples depend on the potentials of the particular horse trade?

Representing the low end of the fashion pay scale is Grindy Malone (Katie MacNichol), newly arrived in the big city with memories of those fab Poncho jeans that were so big in her high school years. She all but spasms when she lands a position as secretary to manager Ronnie Grossman (David Thornton), a boss who seems to swing between dreamy carelessness and tense concern. He appears to be the storm center of Poncho's failing company.

But, while the plot starts out as Grindy's adventurous career working in her idol's company, she is lost among the various characters and agendas taking their turn in Maher's spotlight, even as she works her unconvincing way up the path of corporate influence. Such is the style of arbitrary progression as the melodrama unravels its plotlines of looming bankruptcy, a dumb new product that fails, rebirth by takeover, a fraudulent relabeling ploy leading to success, a counterfeiting maneuver to overcome a shortage of material, backstabbing, scheming and self positioning. It's a knotty entaglement of greed begging for a strong central character in a purposeful story arc.

In her three years in the garment industry, Maher may have learned her way around a sewing room but she picked up nothing about a movie set. She has come up with a crafty subject for an ironic comedy but that's where the craft seems to have hit bottom in her well-intentioned debut.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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