Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten, or unknown film and TV credits, continues this week with works featuring Tessa Thompson.
Make It Happen (2008)
Directed by Darren Grant
Written by Duane Adler and Nicole Avril
When your car gets towed in the pouring rain, and you’re hours away from friends and home, and everyone looks like a murderer, or looks away, you wish there was a person like Tessa Thompson’s Dana around, to offer an umbrella and shelter for the night. Well, like the chances of meeting this level of generosity in the real world, Dana doesn’t get many scenes in Make It Happen. Instead she disappears for a large chuck of the movie, with all the focus going to shelter-seeker, Lauryn (Scott Pilgrim’s Mary Elizabeth Winstead), instead.
Lauryn is a self-trained dancer from small town, Indiana. After her parents passed away she put her dreams on hold to cover the books at their family-owned garage but, when a chance to enrol at a prestigious dance school in Chicago comes up, she drives out to audition. This doesn’t go well. Her dancing is ruled dishonest and the prospect of returning home, to a brother who never wanted her to go in the first place, is the final nail in the coffin of her dreams. Luckily, Dana’s invitation to stay the night gets extended and the rest is dance movie history.
As eyebrow raising as her backstory may be, Lauryn’s characterization is the best part of the film. Able to get a bookkeeping job at a club, thanks to Dana, it’s only a matter of time before she has to fill-in for one of the dancers. When she does, instead of becoming fixed on copying moves she’s uncomfortable with, she switches course to bring her own style to their burlesque-inspired routines—less slinky red dress, more Cabaret suit and hat. In other movies this kind of confidence would take the whole run time to achieve. Lauryn’s not so easily pushed around and, when she takes the inevitable runner back home, it’s not because she doesn’t believe in herself. It’s because she cares about her brother and takes responsibilities seriously. If her brother was less stoic, maybe viewers would care, too.
Make It Happen has a pretty good romance, and is certainly a giant leap up from Monday’s The Initiation of Sarah. Played by Riley Smith, whose new show Frequency airs Wednesdays on the CW (please, I’ve gotten too attached and the viewer numbers aren’t great), his music director, Russ, might say lines like “chef’s special,” after his and Lauryn’s first kiss, but at least he’s supportive. He’s also not domineering, the proving moment being when Lauryn’s brother shows up by surprise to one of her shows. Storming out, with Lauryn close behind, Russ doesn’t know who this guy is but when he follows, and runs into them arguing outside, he stays in the background. He doesn’t talk for Lauryn or overreact but is ready to help if needed. It’s an impressively mature move for a guy in this type of movie.
Verdict: Buried Treasure
Removing all conflict so that even the mean girl dancer, Carmen, changes her tune, Make It Happen ends too abruptly and I wish there had been more scenes like the one where they get into choreography. Tessa Thompson is criminally underutilized for a single solo routine, but if you’re a fan of Winstead’s, Make It Happen‘s worth your time.
Check back tomorrow for Tessa Thompson’s performance in an atypical road trip movie.