You’re never too old to reinvent yourself. Bobby (James Le Gros), a middle-aged bartender, hasn’t quite figured this out yet. He’s spent too many years of his life just coasting by. After the sudden death of his mother and the dissolution of his marriage, Bobby has spent his time working the bar at a local restaurant and chipping away at his work-in-progress, a graphic novel memoir. When his old crush Tanya (Lisa Edelstein) pops back into his life, he’s too timid to whisk her away from her suitor, a debonair investor named Mario (Reynaldo Gallegos).
Bobby has become complacent, a bit too comfortable in his situation. He’s sitting on a nest egg of $50k but chooses to live in his airstream trailer and continues to work for the morale killing, tip stealing boss Kyle (Diedrich Bader). But his buddy Carlos (Jesse Borrego), a talented chef who works at the restaurant, has an idea. They should invest their money into a new concept: a local bowling alley/pizzeria that offers more than just cheap entertainment and greasy fare. Bobby suddenly finds a new purpose in life. Will he realize his dream and get the girl? Or will he just go back to his usual humdrum life?
“Are we all just a bunch of ones and zeros?”
Written and directed by Gary Lundgren, Phoenix, Oregon is a heartfelt exploration of self-reinvention, friendship and love. It’s for anyone who felt that age was a roadblock to forging a new path in life. It also champions the notion that you don’t have to accept your situation as it is, that you can always take steps, no matter how big or small, to live a happier and more fulfilling life. Phoenix, Oregon is a small city in the southern part of the state but within the context of the film, Phoenix, which is also referenced in the name of the bowling alley-pizzeria, Rising Phoenix, is symbolic of rebirth. Of shedding the old and starting anew.
This film really checked off a lot of boxes for me. The focus on middle-aged characters looking to reinvent themselves really resonated with me. I’m getting very close to middle age and am growing tired of watching films about young people starting their lives. Also, there are so many films now with diverse casts, which is fantastic, but the Latinx community is still largely missing from that equation. I was grateful to see so many Latinx actors/characters in this film including the main character of Carlos, played by Jesse Borrego, who is a supremely talented chef and is tired of wasting his talents on a soul crushing job. He’s more than just a buddy character who serves to support the protagonist. I really enjoyed the performances overall. Le Gros and Edelstein have great chemistry. Bader is hilarious as the evil restaurant manager Kyle. Another win for me was the graphic novel conceit. Throughout the film, Bobby’s hand drawn illustrations flashback to his old life, giving the viewer a sense of who he is and where he’s come from through the lens of some terrific graphic novel art.
“It’s a bizarre day when you realize you’re middle-aged, especially when you were just in your prime with your whole life in front of you. Somehow we fool ourselves into thinking we have more time than we do.”Director Gary Lundgren
Phoenix, Oregon will lift your spirits. Seek this one out. You won’t be sorry you did.
This film is available to watch online through a theatre at home platform which allows viewers to choose which independent theatre to support with their ticket purchase. Visit the official website for more information.