I have a love/hate relationship with indie films. I think the concept is pretty cool and I have to applaud the people putting work into them, but at the end of the day, a lot of the movies never feel really complete. I guess that’s probably because as mainstream movie watchers, we’re kind of trained to expect certain things out of a movie.
The few times I’ve viewed indie films have probably been when I was bored and my basis for the decision to watch them might have included the fact that a certain actor was in it. I gave Charlie Bartlett a shot because of Robert Downey Jr. I watches Safety Not Guaranteed on a boring night over the summer partly because of Jake Johnson. So as I’ve currently been rewatching Veronica Mars to gear up for the movie, why not watch Cougars Inc. because Kyle Gallner is in it? If you’ve watched Veronica Mars, you know Gallner as Cassidy “Beaver” Casablancas. Perhaps you’ve seen him as Impulse in Smallville, or you’ve watched him as a lead character in A Nightmare on Elm Street (the 2010 remake of course) or The Haunting in Connecticut. His attachment to independent movies suggests that that’s what he likes doing.
Anyway, even Cougars Inc. makes it obvious enough that Gallner can act. He’s spent the last few years attaching himself to smaller indie films. With his roles in horror movies, it becomes obvious enough that the guy is a bit of a horror movie fanatic. But Cougars Inc. is far from a horror movie. It’s a straight-t0-DVD indie film about a somewhat troubled, somewhat cunning, and somewhat charismatic high school senior named Sam.
Sam (Gallner) has been kicked out of several boarding schools for various reasons and his new headmaster (James Belushi) has made it his own personal goal to keep Sam around. Belushi’s character and Gallner’s character appear to have a sort of father-son relationship throughout the film, as Headmaster Fox (Belushi) takes an almost immediate liking to Sam. He cusses and makes inappropriate comments in front of the boy, almost like that cool, young teacher you wish you had in high school that could understand and relate to you. Well, that’s Headmaster Fox. His character is so chill at some points that it’s almost unbelievable, but Belushi does a good job in the role, so that can be forgiven.
Sam quickly meets some friends at school. Jimmy, Teddy, and Chuck are a bit of outcasts like Sam. He stands up for the three after fellow student Shawn makes snide remarks about them. The four grow closer as time goes on and during an outing around town one weekend, Sam runs into Courtney (Sarah Hyland). The two take an interest in each other and end up making plans to meet up again. But after Courtney ditches, Sam finds himself in a bar with Allison (Kathryn Morris), a middle-aged woman, talking to her about her recent marital problems as she vouches for his age in order for him to get drinks.
Needless to say, the two end up in bed together and she gives him a check after he expresses to her that he can’t pay the tuition to remain at the boarding school for the rest of the semester. After his friends hear, Sam is pressured to set them up with some of Allison’s friends. Allison’s friends catch wind of what happened and request to meet Sam’s friends as well, and eventually this escalades into Sam’s very own escort service. Meanwhile, Sam is getting the money he needs and eventually starts dating Courtney. But towards the end of the film, he realizes that things have gone a bit too far as Fox has fought for Sam to get a scholarship. He also worries as Fox’s family and Courtney get caught up in
Sam’s escort business as well.
When it’s all said and done, the movie isn’t my favorite and by no means is it a great film, but I really wasn’t expecting that when I decided to watch an 80 minute indie movie about a high schooler starting an escort service for middle-aged women. I have to say that the acting is fine. Sarah Hyland does fine in her part, but her role doesn’t exactly have a lot to offer. If anything, Kyle Gallner and James Belushi did a great job in their scenes together and that’s part of what makes the film for me.
But as far as the story goes, I feel like we’ve just barely scratched the surface. The audience is given a pretty short summary of Sam’s life before his current boarding school. We don’t know much about him as a person except that he’s interesting and that he’s been kicked out of several schools for bad behavior. We don’t know much about Courtney besides the fact that she’s a bit forward. She and Sam are kind of just thrust together and it makes you think there isn’t all that much to their relationship. And for a movie called Cougars Inc. you’d think there would be more focus on the whole escort service. A good chunk of the movie does, but a lot of it is told in a montage sequence. The problem is that when the credits started rolling, I wanted more. I wanted to know more about the characters. I wanted to see a little bit more complex plot. But for an 80 minute indie film, I guess I can’t really expect much.
I will say I liked the ending though. Towards the end, we start to realize that Sam somehow managed to majorly affect Headmaster Fox’s life (and marriage) when he set up the escort business. The man seemed a little upset with Sam, but in the end, we find out that he’s not angry at all. He’s still the chill guy who was introduced at the beginning of the film. He tells Sam that he isn’t really mad at all, seeing as Sam needed the money for school, and he’s had problems with his wife for years. Fox seems to accept things for how they are instead of being upset because they aren’t how he wants them to be. And I guess that’s a pretty cool philosophy to have, as subtle as it might be. So all in all, it’s not your standard mainstream movie. It’s not even a comedy like the cover might suggest. The synopsis states that it’s a “sophisticated take on a high school sex comedy,” but I don’t think you’ll be laughing, or exuding a whole lot of other emotions for that matter either. You might not like it. But the acting’s pretty good and the story’s pretty sweet. And even if you’re not a fan by time the credits start rolling, at least you can feel good for giving it a try.