Locating Silver Lake
Director: Eric Bilitch
Writer: Eric Bilitch
Starring: Josh Peck, Amaury Nolasco, Valerie Cruz, Aubrey Peeples, Finn Wittrock
“There’s a world outside every darkened door
Where blues won’t haunt you anymore
Where brave are free and lovers soar
Come ride with me to the distant shore.” ~ ‘Life Is a Highway,’ Tom Cochrane
We understand so very little about the human brain, yet one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves is the ability to begin again; to start over. This is not a religious statement, but a statement about the human condition that allows us the mental freedom to reset ourselves.
In the case of writer-director Eric Bilitch’s “Locating Silver Lake,’ Daniel (Josh Peck, “Red Dawn (2012)”) is forced to begin again as life is just supposed to be starting. As friends are starting college in different cities or taking a job and moving on with their lives, Daniel finds himself on a road trip to Los Angeles.
As a writer, Daniel moves forward with a sense of purpose, but has no real destination in mind. Yes, I mentioned he physically ends up in Los Angeles, but a writer needs inspiration to create something, otherwise the blank white screen of a Microsoft Word document looks very, very lonely. Mr. Bilitch is keen to bring Daniel into LA as a virgin, which is important because Daniel doesn’t believe he can make friends, or start over.
To that end, Mr. Bilitch surrounds Daniel with people from all walks of life. One of the most critical is Jose (Amaury Nolasco), who has a unit available in his two-unit bungalow. The catch is that the bungalow is in the barrio, something that makes small-town Daniel uncomfortable. As Daniel’s journey progresses, Mr. Bilitch’s witty dialog and the interactions between Mr. Nolasco and Mr. Peck make you feel as if Daniel is a part of la familia.
The next door neighbor is Luisa (Valerie Cruz). She is a divorcee with two young boys. This is the second layer on Daniel’s journey. Between Luisa and Jose, Daniel learns to accept who he is; something that he could not do on his own. Together, they force him out of his enclave and into the real world, to socialize.
There’s a scene after Daniel establishes himself in which Jose and his crew are sitting around a fire pit, enjoying carnitas. They invite Daniel to join them on the condition that he play them a tune on his guitar. Whether it was Mr. Peck’s performance or Mr. Bilitch’s story and direction, in that poignant moment, we see Daniel’s soul poured out.
This is all in service of the third layer in Daniel’s journey. On his first night out, he awkwardly tries to order a drink at a bar, but to no avail. In a flash of brilliance, the noble laureate poet Seth swoops in, his eyes on fire with wild abandon, but also a purpose. Finn Wittrock plays Seth with a playfulness that matches Daniel’s forlorn nature. Mr. Bilitch imbues both characters with a sense of purpose, one driven towards an ultimate goal, the other with more focus.
In each of his journey’s layers, Daniel meets someone who could potentially be a love interest or a friend. It takes a spark to ignite the senses, especially in matters of love. There’s no greater spark for love than danger, and Mr. Bilitch inserts Talya (Aubrey Peeples) into this equation.
It is this balance between the characters and the layers of Daniel’s journey that make Mr. Bilitch’s story so appealing and earned the film a place in the 2018 Phoenix Film Festival’s Narrative Feature Film competition.
Ultimately, Mr. Bilitch’s story is about finding oneself and acknowledging our faults as a way of moving forward. Daniel’s resolution is as much about himself as it is the world and the people around him. As he’s locating Silver Lake, he’s finding himself.
And that’s a journey well worth taking.
3.5 out of 4 stars