• The Sweet Life

    Released By: Synapse Films
    Released On: 07/12/2011
    Director: Rocco Simonelli
    Cast: James Lorinz, Barbara Sicuranza, Joan Jett
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    The Film:

    It used to be that if you wanted to record a CD with your band, you had to pool your collective resources and pony up the insane hourly rates that recording studios charged. Thankfully, innovations in home computer technology and software design have placed high-end recording studios in the basements and garages of houses all across the world, allowing would-be musicians to unleash their creative selves on a whim. The same developments have given aspiring filmmakers digital video cameras, imacs, and software such as Final Cut Pro, allowing them to shoot, edit, score, and produce a snappy-looking DVD or Blu-Ray. And while this is generally regarded as a good thing, it also answers the question, “How in the hell did something like this ever get made?”

    Such is the case with The Sweet Life, the 2003 film from Writer/Director Rocco Simonelli, the man responsible for The Substitute, The Substitute 2, The Substitute 3, and The Substitute 4. And while I won’t deny enjoying some lower-budget Tom Berenger action, “stick with what you know” is a phrase that could certainly be used here, as Simonelli dive-bombs into a genre outside of his area of expertise.

    Billed as “a romantic comedy…for people who hate romantic comedies!”, The Sweet Life is neither. Following a completely unoriginal premise, the film introduces Michael (James Lorinz) a quiet, shy fella who has had no luck with the ladies ever since his brother Frankie stole his childhood sweetheart. Frankie lucks out in every situation, scoring boatloads of girls, earning a massive salary, and generally being an all-round suave guy, despite looking like a chewed-up Matthew Broderick. In an effort to, well, get his brother laid, Frankie and his skeezy bartender girlfriend Lila attempt to hook Michael up with Lila’s rocker roommate Sherry (Joan Jett). After a wild night out with Joan that includes some dancing on a bar, Michael is left unfulfilled when Sherry almost vomits on him during sex, and then passes out leaving him handcuffed to the bed. Fortunately for Michael, Lila arrives home after being dumped by Frankie and, you guessed it, the two of them have a heart-to-heart about what a slimebag Frankie is and get involved. Missing what he no longer has, Frankie decides that he wants Lila back, creating tension between the brothers.

    Well, sort of. The problem is that there’s no tension. Because at no point do you care even slightly about these characters. There is not one decent actor in the entire film, save for Barbara Sicuranza as Lila, who seems like she could act if somebody would give her a decent script to work with. But there’s no decent script here, either. The writing is so far below sub-par, it boggles the mind. With stupid one-liners that are set up minutes before, and…just BAD character dialogue that comes off as contrived and is delivered unconvincingly, you’re never given a chance to like any of the characters.

    I admire the independent filmmaking spirit, and appreciate that not every film is going to look like a big budget production. But being shot on DV is no reason at all to look like a low-budget television show on a publicly-funded station. This movie simply looks terrible. Combined with the horrid acting, the completely random framing, amateur shot composition, the actors who visibly notice the camera and then overact because they know they’re now in the film, bad editing…well, you get the idea….I kept waiting for a porn film to break out. And not a good porn film.

    I have seen a lot of very bad films over the course of my life. I will defend some of them to the death because they have an over the top entertainment factor, because there’s a standout actor, or because somebody’s heart was in the right place; but The Sweet Life is one of the worst that I have ever seen, with no redeeming value whatsoever.


    Synapse Films brings The Sweet Life to DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer and a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track. The picture quality is fine as far as the transfer goes, as Synapse certainly can’t be blamed for the fact that the movie itself looks like garbage. Not much can be said for skin tones, range of colour, black levels, etc, but that’s largely because of what looks like some strange lighting setups in the film itself, and the DV camera’s reaction to that lighting. The Dolby 2.0 track is fine, with coherent dialogue and a well-balanced soundtrack.

    First up in the extra features is a Commentary with Writer/Director Rocco Simonelli and actors James Lorinz and Barbara Sicuranza. They do cover quite a few topics including the casting of the leads and how two of the actors had to be recast last-minute, the difficulty of shooting in New York City with a low budget, and how they chose the locations that they used. Simonelli also discusses the music used in the film (having Joan Jett involved didn’t hurt), and points out the number of “great shots” and “great actors”. Aside from that, there are a number of anecdotes shared about the making of the film.

    Next up is The Making Of The Sweet Life, a 35 minute look at how the film was created. It consists of a lot of on-set footage, as well as interviews with Writer/Director Rocco Simonelli, Producer Roy Frumkes, and actor James Lorinz. There is a disclaimer at the beginning of the piece, stating that the final version of the featurette was lost, and that a rough cut was included just to have it present.

    Next up are Deleted and Extended Scenes, which run about 13 minutes. They largely consist of more dialogue between the characters, which doesn’t really do anything to flesh them out more or anything.

    Outtakes contains some unused footage of the scene where a drunk Sherry is walked home by Michael. With a voiceover by Producer Roy Frumkes, he explains how a nearby barking dog kept ruining the takes. It runs almost seven and a half minutes.

    A Theatrical Trailer is also included.

    The Final Word:

    A wise man with a bandanna once said, “Just ‘cause you don’t understand what’s going on don’t mean it don’t make no sense, and just ‘cause you don’t like it don’t mean it ain’t no good.” And he’s right. The Sweet Life may have fans out there somewhere. If they like the film, this DVD from Synapse is a decent way to own it. For the rest of you…don’t say that you weren’t warned.

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Steve is just shaking his head....