Screenwriter Steven Peros makes his directorial debut with a strange little film called “Footprints.” Peros previously wrote “The Cat’s Meow” (2001), which was director Peter Bogdanovich’s last stab at a serious theatrical release.
“Footprints” is similar to “The Cat’s Meow” in its obsession with all things Old Hollywood. In this case, however, the film comes dangerously close to being little more than a tiresome historical tour of Hollywood Boulevard.
The film’s characters too often spout random “little-known facts” about the street of dreams. Do we really need to know, as an example, that “Jimmy Kimmel Live” is shot in a former Masonic temple? Maybe if it had something to do with the plot at hand—in this case, no.
Sybil Temtchine stars in a mostly somnambulant performance as a young woman who wakes up one morning in the footprints and handprints of the Chinese Theatre with severe amnesia. Looking desperately for clues as to who she might be and why she might be in Tinsel Town, she meets up with various well-meaning irregulars, a la “The Wizard of Oz” or “Alice in Wonderland,” who dispense the expected tidbits of advice (and ever more Hollywood Boulevard factoids) or simply vent about the ups and downs of their street lives.
Peros’s strategy gets old pretty quick once we sense that the entire film is going to be one of these encounters after another. The heroine acquaints herself with a homeless man, two silly tour guides, an elegant, mysterious older gentleman, two ladies who dress up as Catwoman and Supergirl for Chinese Theatre tourists, an ancient starlet, and on and on.
All of these interactions come off as stilted, flat, and just plain weird in a “trying too hard” way. Peros seems to be going for a David Lynch vibe here and there but never achieves anything more than Lynch super lite. In this sense, “Footprints” comes off as a poor, amateurish cousin to Werner Herzog’s also unsuccessful attempt at Lynchness, “My Son, My Son, What Have You Done?” (2009), which was actually produced by Lynch. The lesson of these films must surely be that trying to imitate a singular artist of Lynch’s stature is an all-around perilous proposition; you really have to know what you are doing, what you are trying to achieve.
One of the oddest sequences in “Footprints” comes midway when Catwoman and Supergirl encourage the young woman—who under their tutelage has donned a Wonder Woman costume—to get a Scientology “stress test.” It is unclear what point if any Peros is trying to make by bringing Scientology into the mix.
A longish scene in which the young woman and the ancient starlet (Pippa Scott) make friends in front of the Egyptian Theater is exemplary of what is not working well: their conversation is exceptionally slow paced and simply goes around in circles, not adding up to anything much.
The central problem is Peros’s lethargic screenplay, which goes off in too many tangents and suffers from too many ridiculous lines. Pity the actor who has to deliver, as Temtchine does here, a nonsensical line like this one with a straight face: “I’m from Hollywood, I’ve seen ‘The Heiress,’ and I know a poem.”
Toward the end of the film, Peros sets things in a somewhat unexpected metaphysical direction, while the dialogue descends further into mumbo jumbo. A final poolside encounter between the young woman and the older gentleman (H.M. Wynant) is unintentionally hilarious and nearly incomprehensible.
The gentleman could be speaking for the audience when he muses, “In Hollywood, you can fill lots of time waiting.” That is pretty much how this film goes down: eighty minutes of waiting for something interesting to happen stretched into what feels like hours.
It is too bad that the two old-timers involved, Scott and Wynant—both of them Broadway and Hollywood veterans—do not have the chance in “Footprints” to show what they can do. Both actors are hemmed in, although they certainly try their best to make something of this film.
Our Gal – Sybil Temtchine
Victor – H.M. Wynant
Genevieve – Pippa Scott
Homeless Man – Jeris Lee Poindexter
Mike the Tour Guide – Charley Rossman
E-man – John Brickner
The Stranger – Kirk Bovill
Catwoman – Catherine Bruhier
Supergirl – Riley Weston
Joe the Auditor – Joe Roseto
Manny – R.J. Cantu
Robert – Jim Braswell
A Paladin release.
Directed and written by Steven Peros.
Produced by Steven Peros and John Peros.
Cinematography, Adam Teichman.
Editing, Travis Rust.
Original Music, Christopher Caliendo.
Running time: 80 minutes.