American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Kwik Stop" starts out with a shoplifter and a teenager who sees him stealing. She threatens to turn him over to the cops, but actually all she wants is to escape from her life in a Chicago suburb. He explains he's going to Los Angeles to become a movie actor. "Take me with you," she says. "Can I kiss you?" he says.
At this point, maybe 10 minutes into the story, we think we know more or less where the movie is going: It'll be a road picture. We are dead wrong. "Kwik Stop," which never quite gets out of town, blindsides us with unexpected humor and sadness, and is one of the unsung treasures of recent independent filmmaking. It's playing at Facets, 1517 W. Fullerton.
The movie is the work of Michael Gilio, who wrote it, directed it and stars in it as Mike, the guy who thinks he could be a movie star. Gilio in fact is already an established actor; he played opposite Sidney Poitier in the TV movie "To Sir with Love 2," and has appeared in four other films, but this movie proves he's not only an actor but has a genuine filmmaking talent. In the way it is developed, and seen, and especially in the way it ends, "Kwik Stop" shows an imagination that flies far beyond the conventions it seems to begin with.
Mike is a complicated guy. He dreams of going to Los Angeles and breaking into the movies, yes--but perhaps the dream is more important than actually doing it. He's like a lot of people who are stuck in the planning stage and like it there. Didi (Lara Phillips) has no plans, but she has urgent desires and is prepared to act on them. We learn all we need to know about her home life in a shot taken from the curb, that watches her go inside to get some stuff and come back out again, unconcerned that she is leaving town, she thinks, forever.