“See the transient beauty of the dairy freeze queen”
One of the great things about independent cinema is how filmmakers on a small budget can find themselves taking audiences to places studio projects have no interest in visiting. While Nashville, TN isn’t some hole-in-the-wall dump no one knows about—Robert Altman did make a movie there in the 70s and current pop culture seems to enjoy “Nashville” on TV after all—glimpsing the city through soundstages and glamour shots doesn’t equate to the street level personality endearing it to the common man. What about the no name transplants coming to break into a music industry with barely enough money to survive until the next day’s dive bar pleading for a chance on stage? What about the struggle of life and its emotional entanglements risking to distract from that path?
Directed by Princeton Holt from a screenplay he and his star Naama Kates wrote, The 10 Commandments of Chloe is an intimate look at regular people living the day-to-day. No one here is a superstar and no one truly aspires to be one—these are working artists who follow the music and not the money. Kates’ Chloe is introduced as a woman escaping into a brand new life of opportunity with no discernable past or interest in anything but the now. Hitting up bar after bar with a demo CD inquiring about booking protocol, she begins what could quite easily become a futile cycle of patronizing, disinterested faces. Her keyboard isn’t the most compact piece of equipment or this particular clientele’s normal Southern flavor either, so she has some work ahead.
Making the journey rougher is the reality that she isn’t the most gregarious newcomer these artistic types have ever seen. The charm is lathered on when meeting a player or owner at a venue, but that willingness to open up and be accessible is trapped behind a wall of jokes and sarcasm when her career is no longer the focal point of the conversation. Chloe is not the most likeable stranger in the room and the way she treats the one person who genuinely appears to want to get to know her does nothing to help. Brandon (Jason Burkey) is drawn to her mysterious air as flirty eyes and a wry smile beckon him closer to learn more despite it being obvious she has no desire to satisfy his curiosity.
But he’s the one who approached her and who ultimately sets himself up for the psychological abuse taken when the feelings and actions he gives aren’t reciprocated. To him Nashville is home, a place he loves but would have no trouble leaving if given the chance. These are his streets to roam and stay out late and go to bed knowing he’ll still have a job at his father’s furniture store and the security to repeat the previous day’s activities again and again. Chloe doesn’t have that luxury as the outsider who didn’t arrive for love or shelter or reprieve. She came for rebirth. This was her all-in hand to fulfill a dream of reaching people through her lyrics and music. Early nights ignoring the doorbell while composing are a life choice, not a prison.
This is what captivates when watching despite its surface projecting another low-budget indie with supporting players lacking pure authenticity and a script easily led astray on unnecessary tangents (I’m so glad I learned about that photographer’s hot friend before Jackson’s party). Kates and Holt haven’t set out to craft a love story amidst hopeful artists no matter how much Brandon wishes they had. It’s a journey about sacrifice and drive and courage to never stop until the hunger fades. Chloe runs with Brandon’s joke about living by a set of commandments true to her by saying he should too. But while title cards five through seven appear to tell Brandon to “Persist”, “Seize the Moment”, and “Be Fearless” in advancing their relationship, they really ask him to reevaluate his life of convenience and rectify his frustrations.
Kates’ Chloe therefore transforms into a woman to hate once selfishness eats away at Brandon’s kindness and compassionate heart because we’ve been conditioned to anticipate romance when spoon-fed a sensitive guy doing everything right. We assume the prickly love interest is a clichéd, scorned woman in need of honesty and empathy to let her guard thaw forgetting how to accept the unexpected. Instead of seeing a headstrong woman with goals we see an indifferent bitch unable to look past her own needs to let the love of a good man in. But this isn’t Chloe. Yes she likes Brandon and enjoys his company, but she never leads him on. It’s he who can’t see past his own expectations and experience the unfiltered and unapologetic person she’s presented herself as from the start.
She admits her phone is lost, arrives to dates saying she can’t stay long, and never compromises her mission. Her eventual meeting with bar owner Mr. Turner (Wynn Reichert) will hit you over the head with what Kates’ performance should already have you understanding courtesy of the question, “Do you have a boyfriend?” and its aftermath, but what follows redeems it. We watch the whole film peering in on a darkened city of attractive architecture and glowing neon lights waiting for some grand gesture of love only to discover Holt and Kates were keeping something else completely from us. The music and Chloe’s talent for it proves to be the real mystery at hand as anything Brandon or we could hope to learn is present in her song—a personal diary of pain, joy, and truth.
courtesy of whoischloe.com