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Quendrith Johnson


Quendrith Johnson is filmfestivals.com Los Angeles correspondant covering everything happening in film in Hollywood... Well, the most interesting things, anyway.
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LAFF: Kristen Stewart & Taylor Lautner Show Up for A BETTER LIFE

By Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

 

Last night two of the biggest stars from the TWILIGHT franchise, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner, made a surprise appearance on the red carpet for the world premiere of Summit Entertainment's A BETTER LIFE at Los Angeles Film Festival. 

 

 

 

Half the folks crowded outside were probably there just for TWILIGHT reasons, but this won't bother the director of A BETTER LIFE, Chris Weitz, since he helmed NEW MOON. Both Kristen and Taylor might have been nudged by Summit to attend in order to generate some buzz on this film, but the push to validate A BETTER LIFE is unnecessary because this is a bold and brave film.

 

A BETTER LIFE has virtually no stars in it, just like the old days with the first TWILIGHT. The story is gutsy, told from the POV of an "illegal" immigrant gardener in LA whose hip at-risk teen son is rocking the hood while Dad is trying to hold his two-man family together. When he finally borrows some money from his sister to buy his own truck, start his own business that way, the plot takes some hard turns as father and son get tossed up in the underbelly of LA's inner city Latino gang life.

 

Kristen and Taylor showing up is a strong indication of the demographic of this film; Summit knows its audience. But these two newly minted stars also were there to support the cast, who may also find themselves catapulted into the limelight. A BETTER LIFE's Jose Julian might just become the next Pattinson-like heart-throb for Del Norte and South of the Border. Julian has a strong grasp of his character and the punchy macho acting impulses of a street fighter. 

 

Eddie 'Piolin' Sotelo, a real-life tatted-up gangsta, plays "Himself,"" which tells you a little bit about how hard it was to cast the gang members in A BETTER LIFE. If you want to find all the right tattoos, you either have to reproduce them on extras or pay house calls to local prisons or tap parolees looking for a  part time job in the movies. Sotelo is counter-weighted by the silent and graceful performance of Demian Bichir, who plays at-risk teen Luis's (Jose Julian) Dad.

 

Look for this one in coming soon, because it is a bold attempt to integrate the Have's and Have-Not's in Los Angeles and elsewhere in America by weaving a narrative within the largely ignored sub-culture of immigrant laborers -- and their struggle which is reflected in multi-ethnic groups of transient workers worldwide.

 

While LAFF is showing this as an LA movie, Weitz's subject matter rings a bell globally.

 

Stay tuned for more from LA Live and Jameson Filmmaker Lounge at 2011 LAFF.

 

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About Quendrith Johnson

Johnson Quendrith

LA Correspondent for filmfestivals.com


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