Thursday’s Speaker

August 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

Released: 2013; Written and Directed by: Gary Hebert; With: Del Zamora, Ashley Ledbetter, Andrew Shea, Ali Mullin, J. Anthony, McCarthy, Talbot Perry Simons, Kristin Lorenz


Rodrigo (Del Zamora) would like everyone to stay sober and keep comin’ back.  Rodrigo is “Thursday’s Speaker,” the guy they bring into the AA meetings to keep everyone feeling fresh, alive, and motivated.  He’s the guy who’s been sober for 15 years and who is the success story against which all other addicts should measure themselves.  Rodrigo is also most-likely wasted.

Conceptually, Thursday’s Speaker is tremendous.  The idea is that Rodrigo is barely hanging on by a booze-soaked thread.  He’s got a job selling cars for a tyrannical junk-hawker (Talbot Perry Simons) who suspects Rodrigo’s secret, but who needs him to keep pushing his death traps to unsuspecting customers.  He’s got a kid he doesn’t know, a woman who cares but who’s got her own baggage with which to deal, and a really big secret to keep, especially for an AA legend.  Regardless, though, of all of the weight he’s dragging around, Rodrigo, himself, keeps coming back.  He keeps showing at the AA meetings, giving his inspirational speeches, and bedding all manner of young recoverers.  And he’s living his life in a cloud.

Del Zamora, as Rodrigo, is likable, earnest, and not without his own brand of long-haired, Dude-esque charm.  My favorite scenes in the movie are the ones during which he bonds with Sam (Andrew Shea), the son he’s never known.  I like them because they’re effortless.  Shea doesn’t try too hard, and Zamora waves his mane around in wide-albeit wrinkly-eyed enjoyment.

In fact, the film’s most enjoyable moments are when the three leads (Zamora, Shea, and Ashley Ledbetter as Sam’s mom April) don’t try too hard.  Everything about this film’s narrative is “rough.”  Everyone’s got a tough road to hoe, and the humor and relaxation lie in scenes like the one wherein Sam asks his mom for some cash.  April leaps to give him some, reaching for her purse, and unceremoniously pulling out several wrinkled, sweaty one-dollar bills, which she’s earned stripping.

TS is shot through the lens of tanked eyes and it’s a fun take on the relatively serious subject matter.  Most of Rodrigo’s conversations are fish-eyed, and time flows in fast-tracked traffic sequences.  Most of the characters seen through Rodrigo’s POV are close-up and mildly distorted, if only simply because of their proximity to the camera.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the performance of J. Anthony McCarthy as Rodrigo’s buddy-cum-savior Nigel.  His is a performance worth noting; he’s warm, genuine, sentimental, and a little bonkers toward the end.  The cherry on his interventive sundae is a fantastic laugh which allows for a little perspective (and levity) at the end of TS, which is precisely when the viewer (and Rodrigo) needs it most.

— Leah Gehlsen Morlan


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