By almost all accounts, the Los Angeles neighborhood of Echo Park is a cool place to live, both on and off the big screen. “Echo Park,” a 1986 drama starring Susan Dey and Tom Hulce, focused on the lives of local residents with big dreams. Even Chuck Bartowski, the nerd-turned-spy in TV’s “Chuck,” called this eclectic neighborhood home for the run of his series.
Directed by Amanda Marsalis, ” Echo Park ,” a new independent film currently screening at the Los Angeles Film Festival , feels more grounded in reality than previous efforts. Marsalis and star Tony Okungbowa both live in the Echo Park area, which also gives the piece a very honest feel.
Okungbowa plays Alex, a man preparing to leave Los Angeles to go overseas. Before heading out, he must sell his Echo Park home. Sophie (Mamie Gummer), a young woman from the Beverly Hills area, falls in love with the neighborhood, the house, and eventually with Alex himself. The homeowner has commitments in another country, but he’s now feeling reluctant about leaving.
It’s easy to get emotionally attached to the characters in “Echo Park,” especially since they feel so real and down-to-Earth. Okungbowa’s Alex has roots in the neighborhood, but the clock always is ticking for him. He has a plane to catch, even if it means leaving wonderful friends and relationships behind. There’s also a constant “Will he stay or will he go?” vibe throughout the story.
For her part, Mamie Gummer’s Sophie embodies the dichotomy that’s present in the greater Los Angeles area. Beverly Hills may have Rodeo Drive with its fabulous shops, but Sophie and Alex’s trip to an Echo Park record store is one of the high points of the film. In California, things don’t have to sport a designer label to be cool.
Director Amanda Marsalis has a definite appreciation for things that are classic, as well. Elias (Rickey Rico), the son of Alex’s best friend, receives a Polaroid camera from Sophie. It’s intriguing to see how a boy weaned on digital photography takes so well to the idea of film and actual pictures you can hold and put in an album.
A marriage of the old and the new, “Echo Park” is an emotionally story, one that most likely happens to a lot of people these days. Just when one is about to totally change their life, someone wanders in and upsets all their plans. That’s honest and real and could happen anywhere, even in the actual Echo Park itself.
” Echo Park ” will have its second screening at the Los Angeles Film Festival at the Regal Cinema L.A. Live on Tuesday, June 17, at 9:45 p.m.