Chasing The Blues raises the stakes as two music collectors go on a search for a rare 1930s blues record that is said to be cursed.
It’s 1987 and our story evolves around high school teacher Alan Thomas (Grant Rosenmeyer) and record shop owner Paul Bettis (Ronald L. Conner). The two of them try to con the widowed Mrs. Walker (Anna Maria Horsford) out of a rare 1930s blues record, “O Death Where is Thy Sting?” by blues man Jimmie Kane Baldwin. The singer was said to have recorded the record after killing his girlfriend. Supposedly, he heard screams upon playback and the studio scratched the release. Baldwin’s story alone could make for a compelling film.
Not only does Alan want the record but Paul manages to get in his way. The quickly developed rivalry leads to many of the film’s comical moments. Rosenmeyer and Connor are able to heighten the stakes sufficiently between their two characters. Before they can listen to the record, the curse seems to start taking its course. Or so we think. Both of them end up in jail. Mrs. Walker ends up dead on the floor. Their reaction to her death only raises the hysterics. How would you react to a possible dead body?!? We don’t meet them again until 2007. This is when the handler of Mrs. Walker’s estate, Lincoln Groome (Jon Lovitz), enters the picture.
During the 2007 frame of the story, Alan quickly befriends Vanessa Johnson (Chelsea Tavares) as he meets her en route to Louisiana. She’s a musician herself and he opens up on his entire life story. Is there more to her story? We just have to wait and see.
The script from director Scott Smith and co-writer Kevin Guilfoile splits the story between 1987 and 2007. The difference in time also means that both Rosenmeyer and Connor must be able to portray their characters in two different periods. You can barely notice the difference in time periods on Rosenmeyer. Connor, on the other hand, sees quite the difference in looks.
The SNL alumnus is underused but Lovitz makes the best of his screen time as as Baton Rouge-based Lincoln Groome. Even at that, Lovitz is playing against type while serving as the film’s bookends. For what it’s worth, Lovitz was more of a star during the Q&A following the Chasing the Blues world premiere last year. It was during the Q&A in which Lovitz jokingly said that the film’s original title was Jews Meet the Blues. This is because his character is crucial to both the start of the film in addition to the climax.
Despite the 80-minute run time, Chasing the Blues is a nice addition to blues-centered films.
DIRECTOR: Scott Smith
SCREENWRITER: Scott Smith and Kevin Guilfoile
CAST: Grant Rosenmeyer, Ronald L. Conner, Chelsea Tavares, Clem Cheung, with Steve Guttenberg, Anna Maria Horsford, and Jon Lovitz