Prospect review by Dennis Harvey

Playwright Octavio Solis' first film directorial effort is an effective translation of a 1993 stage script that's among his best. While in the end, there's no disguising the material's theatrical origins or its somewhat diminished impact in the new medium, "Prospect" retains potency as a sort of gonzo Tex-Mex "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" that juggles humor, poignancy, and a hint of magic realism. Tale of four party people crossing many a line amid one long night's excesses could tempt adventuresome cable programmers. Fests with Latino sidebars or central focus should take note.

"I'm not into that Latino thing -- I'm assimilated!" protests slightly dorky computer programmer Scout (Sean San Jose), already three sheets to the wind at the pic's start. He's had a very bad day, and is drowning sorrows at a Dallas bar where he attracts bemused interest from knockout blonde Liza (Christine Marais), solo only because she's waited hours for typically delinquent b.f.b.f. Vince (Dihlon McManne). When big-mouthed Vince finally does show up, he at first takes the wobbly Scout for a rival, then blithely welcomes him on board for the night.

His request for a simple "ride home" simply ignored, Scout gets dragged along as Vince reluctantly leads the trio to his home, which Liza insisted on seeing -- she's tired of their rendezvous at anonymous motels, and agitates for a stronger commitment. She is not unaware of her principal roadblock: Vince's wife Elena (a commanding Monica Sanchez), who's discovered staying up late to watch TV. But Liza had no idea Elena has terminal cancer.

For a while, the foursome rouse themselves to renewed drink- and drug-fueled merriment. Elena and Vince are apparently veteran swingers, and the decadent mood is sustained so long as he passes Liza and Scout off as a couple. When that lie is unmasked, Elena, who's allowed Vince his sexual roamings since her illness rendered their union platonic, and Liza, who has emotionally over-invested in a married man, must confront their faulty expectations.

Just when the tumultuous wee-hours party finally winds down, it gets an unwelcome second wind from the arrival of drug dealer Winter (Hansford Prince) and arm candy Red (Shiva Rose McDermott), both of whom had taken a strong dislike to poor vanilla Scout earlier this evening.

Some aspects come through as too schematic in screen translation, most notably Scout's identity crisis and a climactic physical act that carried more cathartic shock value on stage. Still, the florid, frequently funny dialogue compensates for any dilution of the tale's more serious aspects.

Solis upends expectations about these characters over and over, lending them all a pleasing multi-dimensionality that the actors (several in roles they originated) have no trouble fleshing out. Theatrical air suits the slightly larger-than-life tone.

Given the material's somewhat claustrophobic nature, Solis works hard to achieve fluidity, with solid assistance from lenser Erick Yates Green and production designer Karen Johnson -- though their contribs, like everything else in this DV-shot package, will look best in small-screen formats.
 
Camera (color, DV), Erick Yates Green; editors, Kevin Monahan, Liza Maine Seybold, Robbie Proctor; music, Nicholas Rivera; production designer, Karen Johnson; costume designer, Salette Corpuz; sound, Eli Yerbury; assistant director, Katherine Yates; casting, Danba Van Rensselaer, Joanne Denaut. Reviewed at Film Arts Festival, San Francisco, Nov. 6, 2005. Running time: 87 MIN.