Joshua M. Lester and Julia Fae in About Pie (Photo: Gravitas Ventures)
★★★ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Joshua M. Lester
STARS Joshua M. Lester, Skye LaFontaine
The quote “Let them eat cake” might have been attributed to Marie Antoinette, but in this indie effort, it’s all about pie.
Indeed, About Pie is the film’s title, and while that might make the movie sound like a documentary about the creation of these culinary delights, it’s actually a charming and disarming comedy about relationship woes.
Joshua M. Lester, the film’s ambitious writer, director, co-producer and editor (and, heck, caterer and key grip for all I know), stars as a Los Angeleno billed in the credits only as “The Pie Guy.” The Pie Guy (hereafter called PG by me) takes all his first dates out for pie, since the dessert is delicious and inexpensive (too many $80 dinners would leave him broke), and it also allows him to see what sort of people dislike pie. That last bit might sound snobbish or pretentious, but thankfully, PG doesn’t follow his own philosophy: After one date actually says, “I don’t like pie,” he doesn’t bolt for the exit but instead is shown chatting and laughing and having a good time with her.
This woman is just one of several dates highlighted throughout the film. There’s also Sophia (Skye LaFontaine), who seems like the most likely candidate for a sustained relationship. There’s Jackie Collins (Amanda Westlake), a former high school crush who’s now asexual. And there’s Baylee (Julia Fae), a musician who’s ruled out immediately since she’s gay. The sequences between PG and Baylee are the movie’s best, and I honestly wouldn’t have minded if the film pivoted in a Chasing Amy direction and focused solely on their friendship.
The picture is at its strongest when it simply centers on the characters’ charms and quirks, and it falters when it tries to dig beneath the surface. PG is seeing a psychiatrist (Colette Freedman) to discuss his fears and insecurities, but, aside from her quip that relationships are either “season,” “reason” or “forever,” there’s no lasting power to these segments, and their inconclusive nature makes them feel superfluous. When PG explains to a date why he bolted after spending the night with her, the reason is weak and reaching, and sounds like it was made up on the spot (despite the fuzziness of his excuse, his date forgives him; I’m not sure many others would).
Overall, though, About Pie is a winning effort, packed with strong performances, appealing characters, and no small measure of amusing interludes (such as when PG and his friend Garret, robustly played by Greg Hirshland, try to decide whether to hang their Star Wars posters in order of highest grossing or best reviewed). Lester is not only an affable lead but also a confident director, with no hiccups in terms of production values (the cinematography, the music, and even his own editing are all first-rate).
As the cherry (pie?) on top, Lester adds an entertaining end-credits sequence in which he and his (presumably) real-life buddies Hirshland and the hilarious Sam Anker (who plays Tommy in the film) try to come up with the title for the movie. Thankfully, Pie-rates of the Caribbean did not win out.
(About Pie is available on Amazon Prime, Tubi TV, Vudu, and other streaming platforms.)