Plot: Rodney (Steve Olson) has a beautiful, ambitious girlfriend in Tess (Katrina Bowden), but the two couldn’t be much more different and their relationship has collapsed. She is driven and wants a lot from life, while he is unemployed and uninspired, just kind of floating through life. After six months, she decides to stop wasting her time on the hapless Rodney, so she dumps him and he is left without so much as a roof over his head. As his car isn’t that comfortable, finds some shelter with June (Katherine Cortez), a widow who allows him to crash at her place, as long as he pitches in and makes himself useful. This offer gives Rodney a chance to work on himself and find some direction in life, but will he take advantage of the opportunity or just continue to drift through life?
Entertainment Value: The premise here is a well worn one, but Fishbowl California shows a lot of potential and is able to stand out a little from the crowd, with a focus on characters over narrative. So even when the movie takes some familiar turns, you don’t mind as much, because the characters feel well developed and in some cases, quite like real people. To that end, Rodney is tough to get behind, as he is pretty unlikable and it can be hard to care what happens to him. This is amplified at times when he is the center of the movie, as some of the supporting characters deserve more screen time, especially Olivia, June’s daughter. I found the prominent cast to be solid across the board, but I do think I’d have enjoyed more of an ensemble piece, with less focus on Rodney, as he is just not that interesting. I hoped the narrative would open up at some point, but it never does beyond June and Rodney. At the same time, this movie has a lot of heart and feels very natural, which makes it easy to overlook most of the issues and just appreciate the talented cast and believable narrative.
I found the cast to be one of Fishbowl California’s strongest elements, as the main players are rock solid in their roles. No one is over the top or hard to believe, turning in natural and grounded performances. As I said before, Rodney isn’t a likable guy, but Steve Olson is quite good as the character. I wish the script allowed him more room to shine and show some depth, but Olson makes the most of what he is given here. His interactions with Katherine Cortez feel like real conversations, though he does sometimes fall back on “bro” moments that are out of place. I would have liked to see his thread with Jenna Willis fleshed out more as well. Cortez is the film’s anchor and shows immense charm as the cantankerous widow, the kind of character you know has endless stories to tell and Cortez conveys that well. Willis isn’t given much of a chance, but she is an interesting performer and I wish her character had more time here. Most viewers will recognize Richard Riehle and Kate Flannery in small roles as well, with Riehle given a humorous role that he puts to good use. Fishbowl California has some issues, but runs at a brisk pace and thanks to the talented cast, is able to rise above those concerns and offer a believable, solid picture.