THINK OF ME (2011) review + post-screening Q&A

Think of Me (2011) was part of the 2012 Sarasota Film Festival program.

A post-screening Q&A with writer/director Bryan Wizemann, co-producer Alicia Van Couvering and actress Penelope Ann Miller follows this post.

THINK OF ME is the painfully realistic story of single mother Angela (Lauren Ambrose, SIX FEET UNDER, TORCHWOOD), whose irresponsible nature and lack of good judgement make her her own worst enemy. An expert at making one bad decision after another in the search for a quick fix to her continual money woes, Angela is currently failing miserably at both her dead end call center job and as parent to her eight-year-old daughter Sunny (played by a very natural (Audrey P. Scott).

It’s hard to decide whether Angela prefers ignoring her adult responsibilities, is simply incapable of comprehending them, or is just overwhelmed by the unrelenting (and often self-inflicted) stress in her life. Just following her through one day of her bleak life is enough to show how seriously in denial this woman is about acting like a grownup. Her apartment is some crappy weekly rental on the seamy outskirts of Las Vegas, her junk heap of a car is almost always disabled, and her absent ex-husband is months, if not years, behind in child support. When she is occasionally able to get her hands on a little cash it always seems to slip through her fingers like sand. Despite the fact that she desperately needs to stay employed, she refuses to even try to learn the new computer skills that her job requires, and more often than not she just calls in sick to work because she doesn’t feel like going. Although she obviously loves her daughter she barely realizes it when the child needs new shoes, forgets to pick her up after school, and stubbornly resists the teacher’s concerned suggestions to get help for Sunny’s possible dyslexia problem.

In fact, Angela’s waking hours seem to consist of gravitating towards anything that looks like it might earn her a quick buck or two, with absolutely no thought given to any bad consequences that could, and invariably do, result. This includes promising to invest $2000 that she does not possess in a risky real estate “opportunity,” and impetuously taking on an additional part-time job with low-wage janitorial duties that have her leaving her underage daughter home alone nights. One example of her bizarre cost-cutting attempts is the sudden abandonment of the beloved family dog by the side of the road, with her child in the car being a traumatized witness.

After yet another in a long string of unfortunate and costly circumstances occurs, including getting fired from the day job and having the very last of her funds stolen during Sunny’s slapped-together birthday party, Angela’s constant desperation turns into full-blown panic. That’s when smooth-talking former co-worker Max (Dylan Baker, THE GOOD WIFE, SPIDERMAN 3) slinks in and proposes that she let his “sister” Louise (Penelope Ann Miller, THE ARTIST, THE MESSENGERS) “help” by taking the daughter that Angela so obviously cannot successfully care for off of her hands. Angela finds herself seriously considering taking the fast and easy way out by abandoning her child to total strangers for a large wad of cash. It’s this decision and the moral crisis that ensues that forces Angela to face what she cannot live with, or without.

In THINK OF ME, writer/director Bryan Wizemann manages to paint an powerful picture of an immature woman who stubbornly refuses to grow up until forced to do so. After learning that Wizemann himself grew up in the neon-splotched, artificial world that is Vegas, it is impossible to not wonder how much of this film might be autobiographical. (For more insights from the director and others, you can listen to the Q&A held after the film’s screening in Sarasota, FL – the link is below).

Director Bryan Wizemann, cinematographer Mark Schwartzbard and Lauren Ambrose on the set of THINK OF ME.

Lauren Ambrose delivers an uncompromising and emotionally-wrenching performance as Angela, so much so that while it is not always possible to feel sympathy for her character’s actions, you never completely abandon hope that her circumstances and her decision-making skills will somehow magically improve. Little Audrey P. Scott as Sunny is a wonder of understatement and just plain “real kid,” which adds immeasurably to the believability of this film’s dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship. In a small supporting role, Penelope Ann Miller gives her usual excellent, measured performance, and the surprising presence of such a well-liked actress in such an ambiguous role actually heightens the film’s sense of disorientation. Contributing to the pervading mood of alienation and despair is the haunting music by award-winning composer Jeff Grace. If THINK OF ME makes it to general release in theaters, it will certainly offer the wider audience a thought-provoking study of our willingness (or lack thereof) to take responsibility for ourselves.

Dominic Monaghan with Penelope Ann Miller and her daughter, Eloisa Huggins, at the SFF Cinema Tropicale party. ©2012 Rod Millington

Visit the THINK OF ME movie website, where you can see the movie’s trailer.

Audio of the film’s post-screening Q&A with writer/director Bryan Wizemann, co-producer Alicia Van Couvering and actress Penelope Ann Miller.

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