The pull quote on the poster the nice PR person sent me is from the New York Times and it reads, “Two Step is a nasty, flawlessly acted little gem.” I like good acting and nasty things, so I guess, well, I’m down.
Two Step is a film about the shitty, shitty coincidences that pull our lives apart. The moments that lead to the other moments that eventually end up with dead bodies and beaten faces and all the other bad stuff you imagine happening when the proverbial poo-poo hits the fan. Two Step, the directorial debut of Alex R. Johnson (someone most certainly to keep an eye out for), starts with three stories – James (Skyy Moore) a college dropout dealing with the death of his parents and grandma, Dot (the amazing Beth Broderick – kind of like Patricia Clarkson and Dolly Parton slammed together), a ballet teacher with more than few notches on her bedpost, and Webb (James Landry Hebert), a violent con-artist with a sizable debt on his fucked-up head. Johnson slowly weaves the lives of the three characters together, giving each one a solid chunk of time on their own, before slamming them together with sometimes awful, sometimes sweet consequences. Moore’s James is a lost kid, suddenly wealthy (relatively so), who finds some sort of solace in the maternal affections of Dot. A film just about these two characters would’ve been amazing, but the chaotic addition of Webb (who’s given a subtle character twist halfway through the film that made me love this movie all the more) as a sort of destructive element that drags the characters out of their predictable narrative arcs, makes the film crackle. You cringe every time Webb’s on screen, because Hebert instills him with just enough anger and unpredictability to ensure that at some point in this film, Webb is going to do something awful. And, he does. The film doesn’t rush anything, it meanders from character to character and even when they come together, or not, Johnson never pushes the pace. Instead he lets the coincidences of three lives tossed together slowly build, until, when the ending crashes down on top of you, it feels as if there was no other way it could’ve gone.
If you want to know how to make a film that, from my limited experience, feels like Texas, this is the one to watch. The characters just seem to embody a certain desperado-type quality that I imagine only exists in the Lone Star State.