Quiver releases SWEET PARENTS on Digital November 24, 2020
Reviewed by Thyronne Millaud-If you were only aware of the plot of David Bly’s Sweet Parents you would mistakenly expect some sort of sappy rom-com, instead, you will be seeing a finely crafted, emotional, somewhat dour drama that reflects on issues such as insecurity, ambition, and the cost success will demand on one’s integrity and personal relationships. Even the title seems far cuter and way more playful than anything in the movie you will be seeing. A sweet parent is a gender-ambiguous way of describing older members of the opposite sex who will provide gifts or even cash in exchange for companionship or intimacy. In essence, a sugar daddy or sugar momma.
SWEET PARENTS is the story of Will(David Bly) and Gabby(Leah Ruddick), a young couple, who after 8 years of living in the same tiny, temporary apartment and struggling with meaningless jobs to survive are no closer to realizing the creative dreams they came to New York to pursue. She is an aspiring sculptress who works on her art after work in the evenings while he’s working in a string of restaurants that mistreat him while dreaming of being a chef with his own restaurant.
One evening while having drinks with their neighbors, they’re introduced to Pearce(Jacob Mondry), who’s got money to burn and is just returning from a trip to Europe, where he had accompanied his sweet parent. He explains to them how it works and suggests they could both find their own parents who will help them with the rent and realize their ambitions. Gabby laughs it off and thinks nothing of it, but the very idea that people could live like this seems to get under Will’s skin. He is disgusted by the thought of it.
Before long, at a cafe she sometimes sculpts in, Gabby meets Oscar(Casey Biggs), a world-renowned architect whom she knows by reputation through her art teacher. Oscar takes an interest in her art and invites her to some openings and introduces her to people she had only read about until then. Before long he invites her along on a trip to his native Brazil where he tells her he will introduce her to potential patrons. Will reluctantly agrees she should go. One day on a video call he tells her he can’t wait to see her that weekend and she tells him Oscar has asked her to stay a few extra days to meet a gallery owner. That happens to be the same day the restaurant owner at Will’s new job informs the staff that the restaurant will be closing after the weekend.
Will is one of the few workers who offer to stay on until the end and convinces the owner to let him act as the main chef and do things his way. The closing night of the restaurant, Will prepares a special meal for the owner and a few of his friends. One of them Guylaine(Barbara Weetman), an attractive older woman who is a successful business consultant is impressed with Will and his skills and makes a point to speak with him before she leaves. He runs after her as she’s getting in a cab and asks if he can make dinner for her. Soon he is making her dinner and spending more and more time with her finding investors. He still seems conflicted because of his relationship with Gabby. Eventually, they plan a dinner as Gabby wants to introduce Oscar to Will and Will invites Guylaine, telling Gabby together they will work with their sweet parents and they will get all they wish for. But of course, life is never that easy.
SWEET PARENTS trades in degrees of truths and ambiguities. It holds up a dusty mirror and asks which is more treacherous, the lack of success, or what we may do to achieve success.
Although I liked the film and never had the urge to switch it off, I was never fully invested in it. I think I would have liked it better as a light comedy that explored the same issues. The opening scene where Will and Gabby are looking for an apartment sets up the movie as if it will be a comedy but once it jumps 8 years to find them still living in the same two-room place and chasing the dream it becomes a dreary study of a couple that presents more as roommates of convenience than a loving couple.
I saw no real chemistry between them which I find strange considering Bly and Ruddick were in an actual offscreen romantic relationship when they conceived and wrote the script. I found their friends Josh and Claire, played by Chris Roberti and Sunita Mani, to be far more interesting with much more on-screen chemistry although they only appeared in a handful of scenes bringing some much-needed lightness and warmth to the film.
I must admit, by the time Will and Gabby host their respective patrons for dinner I was rooting for Oscar and Guylaine to end up together. Although Gabby’s relationship with Oscar seems to start off innocent enough as truly a friendship between two people who share a common interest in art, I find her incredibly naive or extremely insensitive to expect she can, at the drop of a hat, go off on a prolonged trip to Brazil with a man without causing issues in her long term relationship. I also find Will’s pursuit of Guylaine even more distasteful as it appears he does it more as an act of revenge than anything else. Perhaps if I found either character more sympathetic or appealing I would have been more invested and interested in the themes the filmmakers are exploring.
Overall “Sweet Parents” begs to ask us to question what price would you pay for success even if it feels you feeling empty.
From writer/director David Bly, and starring Leah Rudick (“Maid to Order”), Casey Biggs (“Star Trek : Deep Space Nine”) and David Bly (Same Boat), Quiver releases SWEET PARENTS on Digital November 24, 2020
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