When he was 17, film director Adam Brooks thought he wanted to be a doctor. Maybe, he theorizes, that's why "I hurt people physically or psychologically in the first reel and then try and heal them."
Brooks' tongue is only partially planted in his 28-year-old cheek. "Almost You" (reviewed on Page 4), which was scheduled to close the main portion of the Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Filmex) on Thursday night, serves up enough psychic and bodily injury to fill a free clinic.
The comedic film opens with an argument between Griffin Dunne, as a young man entering mid-life crisis a decade early, and Brooke Adams as his strong-willed wife. That's followed by a car accident, an acute case of job burnout, a stabbing with a crutch and a stab or two at adultery.
By the time the wounds miraculously close up in the film's final moments, you can almost hear Brooks' parents proudly boasting, "Our son, the doctor. . . ."
Critics--and Brooks himself--will likely chalk up "Almost You" as his residency in film making. He's got the procedure down, but one suspects that more noteworthy operations lie ahead.
On the other hand, "Almost You" did win the special jury prize at the U.S. Independent Film Festival in Park City, Utah, in January. That's where it first attracted the attention of Filmex planners, who shortly thereafter selected it for the prestigious closing-night slot.
Over eggs and rye toast earlier this week, Brooks was as willing to note the film's drawbacks as he was eager to recap its strong points.
"It was a very hard kind of film to make, because you're trying to balance comedy with something very rooted in real characters," Brooks says. "It's not supposed to be Neil Simon. It has a very poignant base to it.
"You learn a lot. Sometimes you think you're so smart . . . sometimes I left out the stupid little things."
He refers to the film as "pre-autobiographical" in explaining his knowledge of a subject matter--marriage--he has never experienced firsthand. He also acknowledges that he has left details at the beginning and end of the film to the viewer's imagination. "The characters fall out of love one minute before the film starts and fall back in love one minute after it ends," he says.
But Brooks is resourceful. By the time producer Mark Lipson arrives at the restaurant and steals the rye toast, Brooks has dreamed up a whole new opening for the film.
Lipson, who grew up with Brooks in Toronto and attended New York University film school with him, is a self-described "mini-mogul." He persuaded Wescom, the motion picture and production arm of the San Francisco Chronicle Co., to invest $1 million to make "Almost You."
He likes Brooks' idea, but rolls his eyes, knowing that the film opens today at the Cineplex theaters. It is the first stop in its national release by 20th Century Fox's specialty films division.
Brooks' background is in independent film making, having served as script supervisor on two films by the guru of the independents, John Sayles.
But despite that, and what he refers to as "Almost You's" "sedate" tone, Brooks meant it to be a commercial film. "I think it's a film that's rich in characters and humanity, and I think there's an audience for that.
"Sometimes a movie is meant to be made for $1 million, and sometimes you need $10 million. Next time I want a little more time and a little more money."
For now, he is presumably somewhere in between, co-writing a romantic comedy for producer Lorne Michaels, creator of "Saturday Night Live."
"I feel like I'm just getting started," Brooks says. "I'm ready for Round 2."
STILL MORE TO COME: Though "Almost You" was the last of the 130-odd new films screened at Filmex, another two days of nonstop movie-viewing still awaits. The "Fifty-Hour Filmex Fantasy Marathon" begins tonight at 8 with fantasy segments and cartoons and winds up with a surprise feature that unreels at 9:15 p.m. Sunday.
In between will be "Beauty and the Beast," "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," "The Empire Strikes Back," "Tommy," "Les Visiteur du Soir," "Brewster McCloud," "The Wizard of Oz" and 20 others, plus about 100 cartoons, shorts and trailers.
The marathon takes place at Mann's Four Star Theatre, 5112 Wilshire Blvd., where seating will be on a first-come basis. The Filmex program notes that "pillows, blankets, wool caps and ruby slippers are OK," but "camping gear and ice chests" are not. Food will be allowed, as long as it's not in glass containers.
Also at the Four Star tonight is an encore presentation of "The Roommate," winner of the grand prize at Filmex's American Independent Feature Competition. The comedy film will screen at 5:15.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE VOICE OF FILMEX?: "Ladies and gentlemen, the Los Angeles International Film Exposition presents a film from. . . . " That announcement, made in English and the language of the film's origin, once was a familiar trademark at Filmex, and more than one long-time Filmex-goer sadly noted its absence this year.