When was the last time you were genuinely and pleasantly surprised by a film? My guess is that it has been years, if not longer. Welcome to Bar America and thank you to Rockbridge Productions for bringing this fresh tale to the cinema. Cinema is almost to presumptuous a word for this story which revels in its earthiness. Bar America is full of people you know, would like to know, or maybe even the person whom you yourself are, but don’t make any presumptions that the story is therefore intuitive. Similarly, don’t let the title of this movie imply that there is a “Cheers” factor to it.
While so many films feel the need to show us who the characters are as quickly as possible and then move on to a telegraphed plot line, Bar America benevolently mirrors real life in the way that the true nature of people is slowly revealed to us as we experience life beside them. In this film, the result is multidimensional characters whom we are invested in and love in spite of their shortcomings. That investment is led by the duo at the center of the story, Hank (Dustin Ingram of Paranormal Activity 3) and Charlie (Chris Candy, son of the legendary John Candy and a stellar actor in his own right) whose local fame appears to elevating to a national one. Bar America’s writer/director Matthew Jacobs (known for his work on Disney’s Oscar Nominated Animated Film The Emperor’s New Groove) is a perfectly duplicitous producer named Harry who tempts these two friends with hitting “The Big Time.”
This film takes its title from the viral video show which Hank and Charlie have created. The show is the modern iteration of what it means to hang out in a bar, meeting friends and strangers to simply spend time and get to know each other. When Emily (Michele Boyd) shows up as a new bartender, she catches the eye of Charlie and has a different but equally profound effect on Hank…one with disastrous results later in the story. Morgan Walsh, as Harry’s assistant Danielle, rounds out the central cast of the film.
Bar America takes place in San Francisco, a fitting location because there is a vital message to this film illuminating what the definition of success is to different people. The creation of new ideas and the juxtaposition of “have” and “have-nots” in the Bay Area is pronounced. Produced by Mike Kaney II and Ward Sorrick for Rockbridge Productions, it’s hard to imagine that this film would have achieved such an authentic tone with a big Hollywood Studio behind it. This is congruent with the integrity of Bar America the internet show within the film as Charlie and Hank are adamant that there is something genuine and exceptional that comes from keeping some things small. As much as America loves a huge success story, it prefers an underdog success; the kind of struggle which confirms that dedication and perseverance mean more than big budgets. The direction, cinematography, and production design are certainly top notch but they don’t aspire to be Hollywood…and this film is better for it. The uniqueness of Bar America is essential to what makes it so enjoyable and led to Bar America’s reception of the Audience Award from the Napa Film Festival and status as an Official Selection of the Catalina Film Festival.