“How the hell do you people do this?”
Written and Directed by: Chad Diez
Cast: Art Hall, Rachae Thomas, Nicky Endres
Swift shot: I hate running. There, I said it. It’s boring! My mind wanders all over the place, and I try not to focus on how ridiculous it is to run around when nothing is chasing after me and no one is shooting at me. That said, I have tremendous respect for people who do run, and especially people who enjoy running. To me, they are like some marvelous freaks that I admire but don’t aspire to become. I did my time running, thanks. So, when I heard about Laps I wasn’t sure what to expect. Was this one of those sports films about a man struggling to further himself, or was there anything significant about the path he chose? I am not sure that question was ever fully answered after rounding out Laps.
Nathan (Hall) is a stout, pudgy curmudgeon, who one day decides to run on his old high school track for some reason that is never really made clear. I guess it has something to do with trying to pick up the pieces of his failed relationship with his “baby-mama.” Nathan is a total slob, he’s the kind of person I would confront in real life for tossing his trash, even cigars, wherever the hell he wants . . . while he is running on his old high school track! Not much school pride there. Nathan sure doesn’t get my sympathy from the first lap.
He almost immediately notices another runner, who is shapely and easy on the eyes, Stephanie (Thomas). Nathan basically stalks her, insisting that she help him with his running. Stephanie finally relents, after she accidentally punches him in the nuts. This was by far my favorite scene in the film. Nathan has it coming, but as his character grows up a bit, he does garner more sympathy.
You can see their romance coming from 5K away, but it does come across as genuine. Stephanie has some baggage of her own, a daughter with her ex, Joe (Daisun Cohn-Williams) who is a real piece of shit. Joe makes a habit of constantly trying to slither back into Stephanie. Joe confronts Nathan and basically mentally castrates him. Joe gets in Nathan’s little head, big time!
As Nathan and Stephanie’s pasts play havoc with their future together, the story doesn’t exactly excite. Writer Chad Diez does pepper in some fairly amusing characters in the forms of Nathan’s friend, Ben (Michael Siegel) and Stephanie’s friend, Josi (Endres). My favorite character was this crazy combat veteran, Frank, played perfectly by Paul Dillon.
Frank confronts Nathan and calls him out for being a big pansy, afraid of tough training to win the girl or to even just better himself. While his role is that of mentor, his hazing of Nathan provides a few chuckles. Frank likes to quote pop singers and he scores the best line in the film as he evaluates Nathan’s sad abilities.
And about Nathan’s lack of physical prowess, Nathan is constantly challenging Joe to be able to keep Joe away from Stephanie, and it doesn’t exactly work out in his favor. I’ll leave it at that.
The story I was expecting wasn’t what I got. I felt there was a bit of wasted potential in the quick leap from Nathan being a fatass slob to being in decent shape, where a simple “Six Months Later” is used to show progress. Kudos to the actor though, for the physical transformation, it couldn’t have been easy.
Nathan and Stephanie seem to push one another to be better people. Nathan learns that Stephanie is a pretty talented singer and burgeoning songwriter. She has been toying around with a song about dealing with her ex. And that song is a definite win for Laps, it is worked into the script well, the lyrics are spot on, and the tune is pretty catchy. I found myself singing it a few times in the shower, to be honest.
While this was an indie film, the transitions were a bit forced. But as I understand it, this was actually a series that was made into a film a few years after the series ended. So, I can overlook that aspect of Laps. What I can’t overlook is how I didn’t feel we ever got the real story about these characters, especially not Nathan. The scenes with his ex were strained and weird. The dialog made no sense to me with how the characters ended up behaving. There was a disconnect.
The conclusion was a bit disappointing, but it did capture that sense of reality I look forward to in good stories. It might not be the ending the characters want, but it is the ending all the characters deserve. There is one scene with a mirror that reflects a sentiment I live by daily. I enjoyed seeing it on screen, and I will definitely use Laps as a point of reference in the future. You’ll have to see the film to understand what I mean by that.
Overall Laps is a slow jog romance that has a decent story but not enough of a pace to keep up with the big dogs.