By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
The cover reads: “February 2000.”
EXT. MARINA DEL REY — A DOCKED SAILBOAT
It has been three years since we have viewed Mom, but she is upbeat and chipper as always. This is the happiest Frenchwoman I have ever seen. I couldn’t say the same for her son. Now 28, he seems disenchanted and depressed. His head is shaved to near skin. He wears a flannel shirt buttoned to the neck, like a gangbanger. He seems tired and anxious, as if this film is a burden to him. Is he now living on a sailboat in the marina? His mom, her hair still short and now dyed brown with auburn tones, waves gingerly to the camera, saying in French, “How do you like this?” to an unseen dad behind the lens. “I am visiting my son Nicolas,” Mom explains in French. Bingo. Finally, a name. Nicolas.
EXT. VENICE BEACH — WINTER 2000
Sunset. Drum circle on the beach. LAPD on patrol. Dogs humping. Vendors shilling. Homeless shuffling. Q-Tip rolls by strumming his guitar. In an alleyway off the boardwalk, Nicolas unlocks the door of a purple 1988 Cadillac Coupe de Ville with a white landau roof.
EXT. DUSTY BUNCH GALLERY
A trading post–type gift store. Snow covers the ground. Wait. I know this place. It’s on Route 66 in Williams, Arizona. Of course. They are heading to the Grand Canyon. Inside the gift store, at the counter, a 70-year-old fireplug of a woman wearing a black Stetson riddled with commemorative pins. She counts out change to Mom, who says “thank you” in English without an accent.
“These ... are ... nice ... to ... bring,” says the Stetson lady in that childish stammer we all use with foreigners, as she wraps their purchases in tissue paper. “Enjoy ... your ... visit.”
“Thank you very much,” replies Nicolas in deeply accented English.
EXT. GRAND CANYON RIM
The camera peers over the edge, deep into the canyon. Snow-covered red rocks. Spectacular. We see all the usual sights. The Grand Canyon depot. The Red Feather Lodge. Hermit’s Rest. The Colorado River. A family of deer gingerly crosses the road. Up close and personal. Mom at the rim: “It is cold here,” she says in French, as she pulls her light sweater closer around her neck. In the Hopi House, Nicolas suddenly comes to life when surrounded by Native American art and culture. We see in him the fascination of the boy who once dressed like an Indian.
INT. HOLLYWOOD APARTMENT
A slinky white cat scratches gently at a gift-filled Trader Joe’s bag. It is 3/20/00, according to the video camera. Suitcases are packed. Nicolas stands by the window, wearing a mustard-colored V-neck Star Trek shirt. A bed on the floor. A small TV in the corner. Empty walls. Hollywood chic.
“My parents are gonna go,” he says slowly in French to the lens. He seems kinda ... well, to be honest, he seems stoned.
“I’m gonna show you the cat. Our mother fell in love with this cat.”
He yanks up the furry feline and strokes it hard, like someone annoyed. He smirks knowingly into the camera, then, in French: “Bye, Pasquel. See you soon.”
Pasquel? Could this be the name of his older brother back in Paris?
Later, in another room, we see a girl with her back to the camera. She is on her knees doing something on the couch. Nicolas stands nearby. He is swaying back and forth like he’s high as a kite. As the girl senses the camera, she turns around and smiles. “Do you want me to stand up or what?” She is tall, thin, Asian-American and beautiful. In the kitchen, Mom plays with the cat.
EXT. APARTMENT BUILDING
Nicolas loads his parents’ luggage into his aging Cadillac. We see the exterior of a modern three-story building somewhere in West Hollywood. As he loads the final bags into the car, WE FADE TO BLACK
It’s now four a.m. and I am wired. These movies, and the characters in them, have captivated me. I can’t stop now. I want to know more. I grab a Mountain Dew, and insert the fourth DVD into the player.
EXT. MANN’S CHINESE THEATRE — FALL 2005
Nicolas and his mother are back in Hollywood. It’s been five years since I’ve seen her, but Mom is no worse for wear, with a short blond up-cut. She mingles among the costumed local superheroes: Superman. Catwoman. Batman. Spider-Man. Big Bird.
Mom sits with Nicolas next to the fountain. His long hair hides his puffy face. He looks pale and unhealthy. Now 33 by my calculation, Nicolas looks 40, or even older. His frame is sagging. He looks savagely tired.
An attractive blonde in her mid-30s walks with Nicolas and his mom to the lake’s edge. The new gal seems lively and happy in that upbeat-actress kind of way. Nicolas is now hunched over at the shoulders. His once-thick, buoyant hair now appears thinned and scraggly.
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