One Last Thing … Makes Its Premiere at the Lobero

by Molly Freedenberg

One Last Thing … isn’t exactly the type of movie Sunny Mabrey is
known for — if she’s known for anything. Action fans might
recognize her from XXX: State of the Union, in which she
played a senator’s daughter known for her cleavage. And sci-fi
die-hards might remember her from a 2002 episode of the Buffy
spin-off TV show Angel. But her turn in this sweet, funny
independent film by childhood friends Alex Steyermark (director)
and Barry Stringfellow (writer) might just change all that.

The premise of the film is this: 16-year-old Dylan Jamieson
(played to uncanny perfection by Michael Angarano of Almost
and Lords of Dogtown acclaim) is dying of
cancer. When given the chance to make a wish on national
television, he sidesteps his plan to go fishing with his football
hero and instead asks for what he really wants: a weekend alone
with supermodel Nikki Sinclair (Mabrey). The film follows Jamieson
on an extended adventure as the audience wonders: Will he get his

The premise has plenty of potential for problems: teen-movie
predictability, sentimentality, and cheesiness among them. And it
does make some missteps. Mabrey is hard to believe as a supermodel,
for example, partly because she looks (by no fault of her own, of
course) more Billabong than Badgley Mischka, and partly because the
script’s treatment of the modeling world seems goofy and

Cynthia Nixon is infinitely believable — in fact, she’s
phenomenal — as Dylan’s mom. But it’s hard to see her as the
blue-collar wife she’s supposed to be, and just as hard to imagine
Ethan Hawke as her husband. And several recurring themes feel
underdeveloped and unbelievable, more like exposed plot devices
than necessary parts of the story.

But somehow, those pitfalls don’t manage to ruin the movie. Far
from it. The film strikes the perfect tone between dark humor and
sincere sadness, and the chemistry between characters was palpable.
In fact, the strength of the acting and the authenticity of the
story seemed to carry the film when the script left it behind. It
was almost as though the actors really were living the story, a
fact that Mabrey confirmed.

“The whole movie just felt like we were all experiencing
something beautiful and real together,” she said. It helped that
Mabrey, whose character wrestles with her demons involving grief
and loss, was going through a break-up at the time. “It made the
crying scenes easier,” she joked. It also helped that the small
budget formed a close-knit atmosphere on set. “You don’t have your
trailer to hide out in, so it almost feels like summer camp. … It
pulls people closer together.”

Between scenes she would hang out with Angarano and his
on-screen best friends, Matt Bush and Gideon Glick, who were “so
much fun to hang out with,” she said. “I felt like I was back at
their age again.” Or she’d bond with Gina Gershon, who plays her
agent, about music (both actors also are in bands).

The resulting effect is a half-suspension of disbelief: maybe I
don’t buy that Nikki’s a supermodel, but I do believe her emotional
connection to Dylan. Which means Mabrey could be just around the
corner from more and more serious, interesting, less
cleavage-dependent parts.

“It’s been going really well,” she said of her career. But “I
would like to broaden my horizons.”

4•1•1 One Last Thing … has its Santa
Barbara premiere on Friday, March 31, at the Lobero Theatre. The
screening, which is being hosted by the Cinema Society and will
also feature a Q&A afterwards with the director, is free, but
get there by 7 p.m. to snag seats.


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