Director: Adam Leon
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Adventure brings people together. If you’ve ever met someone as a stranger and found yourself completely mesmerized within 24 hours, this movie is for you. Featured in the Toronto International Film Festival and recently released as a Netflix original, director Adam Leon creates a genuine romantic comedy with TRAMPS. The film follows two desperate, yet innocent, characters who save each other from their mutual despair in life. With its flowing plot structure, this rom-com creates an organic connection between the two that provides for natural humor. Rather than focusing on the danger of the adventure the characters find themselves in, the film focuses more on the comical nature of their situation and the way they interact with each other, differentiating TRAMPS from its peers. If you can get past the cheesy, fast-paced music, you’ll surely enjoy the experience.
I appreciate movies about two characters who begin as strangers, watching their relationship develop over the span of 24 hours. Having said that, we must realize that this film simply offers a fresh perspective on things we have seen before. Speaking of its familiar elements, this film seems to pull some inspiration from RUN LOLA RUN. Similarly, it’s about a man who botches a job in which he carries a briefcase of money through a train, leaving it to his female counterpart to pick him up. It also pulls from director Adam Leon’s first movie, GIMME THE LOOT, which is about a familiar pair of characters trekking through New York City. In addition, it carries shades of BEFORE WE GO, which follows two characters falling in love after a chance encounter at Grand Central Station. Despite its similarities, TRAMPS offers a fresh and charming perspective on the classic New York indie.
There’s a lot to be puzzled by on the NYC subway
This 2016 romantic comedy features two intriguing characters, both coming from completely different backgrounds, who end up in the same hopeless situation. Ellie laments about the shitty people she’s encountered everywhere she’s been, while Danny comments on his decrepit living situations; these issues seem to be their excuses for ending up where they are. Their problematic backgrounds are much more complex than their surface level complaints, however. Ellie is a recent strip club worker seemingly trying to escape an abusive boyfriend, and Danny is a fast food worker living with his Polish mother, who runs a gambling joint out of her house. The two develop strong chemistry and empathy for each other. The acting lives up to the strength of the characters. Callum Turner, known for his roles in QUEEN AND COUNTRY and GREEN ROOM, is a British actor who brilliantly plays the part of Danny. He portrays the quirky nervousness and vulnerability of Danny to a tee. Grace Van Patten, known for her part in STEALING CARS, plays the tough-skinned, yet lovable, Ellie. The supporting cast is stellar as well, with a star turn from Mike Birbiglia as Scott, the scumbag who initially ropes Ellie into this regrettable situation.
The two tackle compelling, and often funny, obstacles. The complications initiate when Danny switches briefcases with the wrong woman. Finding the address of the woman on a pill bottle in the briefcase, the pair ventures into suburban New York to track her down. With a lack of street signs, they struggle to find the address, and look in someone’s mailbox. This is when an old man catches and ridicules them, thankfully making a comedic return later in the film. After this encounter, Ellie hilariously notes, “Don’t worry, he’s driving a fucking SVU,” to which Danny replies, “What does that mean?” “It means he’s an asshole,” Ellie remarks. This is just one example of the comedic dynamic the two share. Probably the most compelling obstacle in the film is when Ellie is offered all of the money if she betrays Danny. In this instance, she must decide between the money she needs and her newfound relationship. When Danny finds this out, he is forced to question their connection, thinking she had been tricking him the whole time. Their solution is gracious, but you’ll have to watch in order to find out.
“Hey how you doin lil mama? Let me whisper in your ear . . .“
If I could point out one flaw with TRAMPS, it would be the music. Sometimes kinetic pop, other times some sort of upbeat country folk, there doesn’t seem to be much of a pattern or cohesive aesthetic. The music is used in an attempt to move the action forward, but it instead creates a sense of kitsch. Although it is a bit out of place, the music isn’t so bad that it distracts from the strong content of the film. Speaking of sound, there is an interesting use of silence as the two first meet and drive to the train station, perfectly portraying the awkward silence and nervousness between the two. Leon dictates further engaging sound work by refusing to give us subtitles for the Polish dialogue between Danny and his mother, forcing us to focus on how the way she delivers lines adds something to the film. Another standout feature in terms of presentation is the fact that TRAMPS is distributed on Netflix in 16×9, with sidebars fully visible; a unique choice for a 2016 outing.
This film is a great addition to the typical New York milieu of indie romantic comedies. It is hard to pull off an independent rom-com without making it melodramatic and overindulgent, but TRAMPS, despite the music, does so successfully. Leon’s film deserves appreciation and could be a great catalyst to the main actors’ careers. TRAMPS may be one of the best Netflix original movies thus far, a solid win for the streaming service, director, and cast.