'Heaven Strewn' is yet another indie movie where the main characters are unwashed hipsters that look like they haven't seen the inside of a shower for months. I felt like I was watching 'Bellflower' all over again, only this time around the theme of the movie was a lot less misogynistic.
Jasper (Ron Tepper) is one of the unwashed hipsters. He spends his time at home struggling to pound out articles for his reporting job at the newspaper. His wife heads off to work, and Jasper loafs around home fighting with writer's block (and apparently the urge to clean himself). He has a friend named Mickey (Wyatt Denny) who is a complete, and utter loser. Mickey washes U.S. currency hoping to change smaller denominations into bigger ones. He's so cheap that he's rigged a faked dollar bill that he can slide into a vending machine and quickly pull it out causing the vending machine to produce product and change for nothing in return. Yeah, Mickey's a real winner.
Mickey and Jasper both attend Alcoholics Anonymous. As Jasper is stressed about his writing career and Mickey has absolutely nothing going for him, they both decide to set out on a trip. The plan is to pick up a metal detector and head off into the desert in search of meteorites. Yeah, I know, these guys are really going places aren't they?
Only the trip isn't what it seems. Mickey, ever the abuser of friendships, is basically just using Jasper for his car. See Mickey has been tipped off about briefcase full of his washed bills being dropped off in the desert where they'll be. So, after the drop Mickey intends to recover the money. Only things go completely wrong for the duo and they end up being chased by inept gangsters.
Truthfully, 'Heaven Strewn' isn't a terrible feature-length debut for director J.T. Gurzi, it's just that he thinks Jasper and Mickey are much more interesting characters than they really are. Their friendship is supposed to be the crux of the story here. How Mickey perverts that friendship in order to fulfill his own selfish ambitions is what is supposed to drive the story. Neither of which ends up being all that compelling.
At least Gurzi understood that his story felt more like a short story and ended up giving it a brisk 78-minute runtime. Although, during its dull stretches the movie seems much longer than that. It's a hard task to make a 78-minute movie seem long, but there are a few points in the movie as the conversations dive head first into the "Dude, dude, dude…" repetitive dialogue you wonder if it'll ever end. Much of the dialogue was like listening to the infuriating way the guys in 'Bellflower' talked to each other, all over again. You've probably never heard of 'Heaven Strewn' before now and there's really no reason to seek it out.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Heaven Strewn' is a Cinema Libre Studio release. The movie has been pressed onto a 25GB Blu-ray Disc. It comes in a standard Blu-ray keepcase.
The front of the cover loudly pronounces that 'Heaven Strewn' is a "16mm Anamorphic Motion Picture." So all the softness of the 1080p image here is completely intentional. They want to draw attention to the fact that they've used an extra grainy film stock. I assume that's because they want people to think it's a lot more art-housey than it really is.
Sharpness is confounded by the 16mm grain structure, but that's the way it was intended to look. Close-ups features some facial detail, but much of it is lost in the grain. Whites are overly hot, especially when they're out searching for meteorites. It's almost as if the white levels have been pumped up as they routinely cover the entire shot in blinding whiteness, covering faces and the landscape. Blacks are flat and soft, hiding a lot of the detail. The nighttime shots are made up of crushing blacks that gobble up the image as much as possible. Some banding is also noticeable around light sources as they cut through the darkness. Noise is also a problem, popping up frequently. Many of these inconsistencies can be traced back to the decision to use 16mm film, but on the whole the movie features a very soft high-def picture.
The audio here is completely disappointing. We've only been given a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mix. Voices are difficult to hear, whispers are completely lost most of the time. The movie's musical soundtrack is mixed far too low, causing one to wonder if there is music playing at all or if that music is coming somewhere from outside. That's what I actually thought. The music in the movie was playing at such a low volume compared to everything else that I thought for a second the sound was coming from an outside source and I was getting its muffled returns. There isn't any surround activity to speak of, with this being a stereo-only mix that is completely underwhelming.
Hardcore indie/mumblecore fans may want to check out 'Heaven Strewn,' but it's certainly not a movie that would be adored by numerous groups of movie watchers. Gurzi fails to create an interesting or worthwhile relationship between Mickey and Jasper, which in turn creates a movie that doesn't have much going for it. I actually dug the ending, but the rest of the movie is an easy pass. With average video and disappointing audio, I see no reason why people would want to spend money on this movie.