"One Last Thing" is the latest film from Magnolia Pictures, a branch off of Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban's 2929 Entertainment that specializes in documentary, foreign, and indie films. They are the force behind such critically lauded titles as "Capturing the Friedmans," "Ong-Bak," and "Nine Lives." One of the striking things about this company is their recent decision to release their movies on DVD at the same time as their theatrical release. Time will tell how this pays off, but based on "One Last Thing" alone, some films should go straight to DVD.
Dylan Jameison (Michael Angarano) is a 16-year-old Philadelphia boy who is dying from cancer. The United Wish Givers foundation has invited him to make a final wish that will be granted on national TV. Dylan shocks everyone, including his widowed mother (Cynthia Nixon), by wishing to spend a private weekend with supermodel Nikki Sinclair.
Sunny Mabrey co-stars as Nikki, who is having problems of her own in New York, including serious regrets about the career path she has chosen. She takes time to stop off in Philly for a quick visit with Dylan, but it is far from the romantic encounter he had expected. To cheer him up, she tells him to give her a call if he is ever in New York.
As you might expect, Dylan immediately packs up and heads to the Big Apple with his two best pals. His mother curiously stands by while her underage, terminally ill son and two other minors head off into the unknown by themselves—just one of many illogical moments in this wildly uneven film. What starts out as an adolescent boy's adventure story unexpectedly turns into some kind of mystical meditation on life and death, but it doesn't really work on either level.
Where it falls short on logistics, the movie is served well by its cast of talented actors who frequently manage to rise above the ludicrous material. Michael Angarano gives a sincere performance as the ailing boy, and Cynthia Nixon (of "Sex and the City" fame) shows a tremendous amount of range and depth here with a character that is not particularly well-written. The gorgeous Sunny Mabrey is a real find, allowing a vulnerability and darkness to emerge through her bubbly good looks.
In spite of its shortcomings as an artistic work, "One Last Thing" has received a surprisingly good DVD release from Magnolia Home Entertainment. The film is presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen transfer that has been enhanced for widescreen TVs. Picture quality is pristine with excellent color saturation displaying the movie's full palette, a result of shooting entirely in high definition.
Audio is presented in both English 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital tracks. The sound is clear and natural, with dialogue well-suited. A good balance on all levels is evident, with ambience never becoming intrusive or distracting.
As far as special features are concerned, there is a small selection of goodies. First up are a series of outtakes and alternate angles for three scenes. We then have the obligatory theatrical trailer.
One particularly interesting supplement is a half-hour episode of HDNet's "Higher Definition," devoted entirely to this film. "Higher Definition" is a program that features interviews and previews for films and TV series filmed in HD. The show is hosted by pop culture writer Robert Wilonsky (who frankly seems more interested in himself than the film) and includes interviews with cast members and director Alex Steyermark.
Steyermark also provides an audio commentary that somehow manages to be more interesting than the film. In many ways, his comments about shooting this low-budget indie made me appreciate it even more. It still does not excuse the terrible script, but considering what he had to work with, Steyermark delivered a solid effort. It is surprising that this is only his second time in the director's chair, after his 2003 debut, "Prey for Rock & Roll."
"One Last Thing" is far from a great movie, but it does feature some very good performances and is the work of an assured director. Magnolia Home Entertainment's tidy DVD release is probably better than the film deserves, and is certainly recommendable for the supplements. If this film happens to be playing in your town, my advice is to save your money and head to the video store. Even if you don't especially like it, hearing Alex Steyermark's impersonation of Philip Seymour Hoffman will be worth the three bucks. Trust me.