Here and There favors weepy (not wincing) sunsets and sugars down New York City's tang. Hard knock jazzman Robert lacks the wind to blow his saxophone so he makes a harebrained deal to play cupid and earns desperate ends. The picture draws you into believing in the somewhat make-believe goods. Outsiders and Gothamists will appreciate this film's heart and keep theatre seats warm.
There's an unofficial New York adage: great place to come to, but an even better place to leave. Constantly, those two perspectives battle for territory. You stick around the city summers and you're bound to crave non-sticky elsewheres. Then again, Woody Allen noted, where else can you find duck dumpling soup at 3 a.m.? Writer/director Darko Lungulov pours over the discontent that the over 9-million strong melting pot populace instigate. His drawing of the character Robert (David Thornton) shows the troubled artist not feeling viable and needing a change of scenery. Something must inspire him to play music again.
Facing impending eviction and only gaining a personal victory by outpedaling an elderly bag lady to the recycling center to cash in his empties proves there are new lows reached if one digs hard enough. Robert hires a man with a van named Branko (Branislav Trifunovic) to help him move. Crashing on Rose's (played by star singer Cyndi Lauper) couch is a good fallback until he helps himself to her booze. Friendless and forced to figure out digs and day jobs he lugs furniture with Branko. The misanthropic Robert realizes that he's getting nowhere fast and Branko propositions him to take a bundle of money by marrying his girlfriend in Belgrade.
Didn't take much convincing before Robert accepts to play a game of matrimony monkey business. He shacks-up with Branko's mom, who's not in on the scheme. Covertly, he's to wed Branko's sweetheart and grant her a fiancée visa so the lovebirds can reunite stateside.
Branko busts his hump moving folks overtime around Queens to make good on the $6,000 dollar sum promised to his new business associate. Meantime, Robert's not assimilating to Serbia. His luggage goes missing and he's forced to dress in Branko's hip, undersized gear. And the Serbian welcome is off-putting. People are suspiciously friendly; from the corner store seductress who sells Robert his smokes to the old bloke on the corner that asks too many questions.
Soon, Robert shaves his scruff and abandons the Oscar Madison grump. He even finds romance in the most unlikely of places.
Tragedy untangles Robert's knots and he hears and plays music again. He develops an appreciation for Serbia and the folksy sorts he initially wrote-off. Back in New York, Robert smiles when a fresh-off-the-boat gal swoons about the city skyline. "It's even more beautiful than the movies, you know," he's told. And Robert sardonically chimes back, "It's not Belgrade."
The film moves in jazzy ditties. Though the score frets Kenny G-style cheese there's a charm, a certain sweetness, to the moody mix. And while the far-fetched premise suggests a fairy godmother herself waved a wand above it, you hope it could be true. If reality set in, the likely scenario would be that the penniless American would get suckered into something far more sinister.
Still, filmmaker Darko Lungulov offers silver lining stuff and doesn't pamper the city's spoils and treasures. By cranking out this feature he has platformed that stay/go phenomena that does away with rote New York notes. In that way, the catchy tune sticks.
Distributor: Cinema Purgatorio
Director/Screenwriter: Darko Lungulov
Cast: David Thornton, Mirjana Karanovic, Cyndi Lauper, Branislav Trifunovic and Jelena Mrdja
Producers: George Lekovic, Darko Lungolov, David Nemer and Vladan Nikolic
Genre: Dramedy; Serbo-Croatian- and English-language, subtitled
Running time: 85 min.
Release date: May 14