There is an understandable caution to be thrown the way of a film in which young, white celebrities in California play seemingly semi-biographical versions of themselves, in a loose narrative where there’s little in the way of on-screen action beyond walking and talking. Weepah Way for Now, the feature debut of director Stephen Ringer, largely manages to quell those fears, however, even with the occasional stylistic choice that raises an eyebrow, your tolerance for narration by characters who never make physical appearances (here Saoirse Ronan, voicing a sister of the protagonists who died at birth and is observing from the beyond) will be tested considerably.
Real-life sisters Aly and AJ Michalka — who started off with the Disney Channel machine in the mid-2000s before breaking into less pubescent-aimed TV and film gigs as adults — play co-dependent sisters Elle and Joy, holed up in a wildlife-heavy Laurel Canyon home they’ve come to regret purchasing, repeatedly bickering and jousting with one another regarding matters both personal and profane. After some failed attempts to pitch an independent film to studios (probable meta commentary on Weepah Way for Now‘s pre-production), the girls are preparing to re-ignite their stagnant careers as musicians with a concert tour.
Much of the film’s concerned with their planning of a going away party, longing for their youth (home movie footage of the actors as children is slotted into select scenes), conflicted feelings towards their cheating father, and their concern for their divorced mother (Mimi Rogers, bringing considerable weight to the film in her few scenes). The party itself, a collection of surprising tragedies and memorable comic set-pieces (kudos for a truly original semen joke), makes up the film’s back half, with a greater sense of place coming in the earlier stretches, as we follow the sisters just going about their days in haphazard fashion and flirting with some of the more ridiculous elements of California life.
Ringer, who is also credited with the film’s screenplay, maintains a consistent emotional register despite the film’s numerous tonal shifts from romantic realism to industry satire to hangout comedy to family tragedy. The film’s cinematography is also surprisingly memorable for the budget and largely chamber-piece nature; it has that sort of familiar “glow” that a lot of California-set indies seem to have lately, but there’s a welcome resistance to just placing the camera down for mere coverage and some evident thought put into how to place the actors within each shot.
If any of this praise of Weepah Way for Now comes across at all like faint praise, it’s not meant to be. This is just one of those cases where you have a perfectly amiable film with perfectly fine performances and execution, but not a great deal to chew on post-viewing. It’s a touching depiction of a bond between sisters, but it doesn’t really create such a bond with viewers.
Josh Slater-Williams (@jslaterwilliams) is a freelance writer based in England. Alongside writing for Vague Visages, he is a regular contributor to independent British magazine The Skinny and has written for Little White Lies magazine, VODzilla.co, The Film Stage, and PopOptiq.