The Advocate Interview - March 23, 2009
"The character played by Ryan Locke is definitely the subject of the viewer’s gaze. I wanted to create this object of desire for everyone in the group -- male, female, gay, straight. He’s the hot alpha male, and usually in movies that guy is the good guy. But Andrew could go either way -- he hurts his friends; he makes some terrible choices. It some ways, it’s the passive characters like Ben that are more likable." (Read More...
indieWIRE Interview - March 19, 2009
"Growing up in L.A. I used to go to movies at the Nuart and the old Fox Venice - classic revival houses - and I had crushes on Bettie Davis and Cary Grant, then later Juliet Binoche and Monty Clift. I loved the crazy, tense, hyper-sexualized, super-framed formal manipulation of Fritz Lang, Hitchcock, Sirk. I loved the sloppy humanist party vibe of Renoir, Mazursky, LaCava, sometimes Cukor. I understood that directors didn’t just set up the camera, they created the tone." (Read More...
WeHoNews Video Interview - July 31, 2008
Roy Rogers Oldencamp of WeHoNews
interviews director Chris Mason Johnson for the world premiere of THE NEW TWENTY at Outfest. The director was part of the festival's Four In Focus series that highlights outstanding first-time feature filmmakers. THE NEW TWENTY enjoyed three sold-out screenings at Outfest and won the Best Lead Actress Award for Nicole Bilderback.
The Reviews Are In!
LOS ANGELES TIMES
Young friends rise to challenges
May 15, 2009
Thirty is THE NEW TWENTY in Chris Mason Johnson's engaging film that centers on a group of college friends who remain close as they make their way in Manhattan. Nicole Bilderback's Julie and Ryan Locke's Andrew have just announced their engagement. Julie, the most successful of the group, presents a challenge to the ambitious and aggressive Andrew, who gets the crass, burly Louie (Terry Serpico) to back him in an undefined business venture. Key in the couple's circle are Tony (Andrew Wei Lin), Julie's gay brother; Colin Fickes' Ben, a hefty gay man having trouble finding a lover and a career, and Thomas Sadoski's very bright Felix, who copes with what he calls "a touch of existential malaise courtesy of late capitalism" with escalating substance abuse. The ensemble performances are on the money, and the members of this multiethnic, sexually diverse group are credibly comfortable with each other. Of course, homophobia still can surface, and Johnson deftly suggests that as these young people attempt to cope with the stresses of modern life they may outgrow the close ties of their college years. Johnson provides them with plenty of challenges and reasons to question their values, priorities and goals.
THE NEW TWENTY (USA) In his sleek and accomplished debut film, writer-director Chris Mason Johnson tracks the lives and loves of a cadre of 29-year-old Manhattan college friends who betray themselves and each other by abusing the Big Three — sex, money, drugs. At the center is Andrew (Ryan Locke), a lean, blond alpha-dog investment banker whose beautiful Asian fiancé (Nicole Bilderback) may be his match in the world of business. Among those circling this golden couple are Ben (Colin Fickes), who's gay, overweight and addicted to online sex sites (there's a great moment when a trick comes over to Ben's apartment and the two men reject each other on sight), as well as the drug-addicted Felix (Thomas Sadoski) and commitment-phobic Tony (Andrew Wei Lin). We have been here many times before (see 1966's The Group), but Johnson and co-writer Ishmael Chawla have a light touch that keeps things from turning overly melodramatic — no vases get thrown. Supported by veteran New York actors such as Terry Serpico and Bill Sage, the strong ensemble of young actors create fully defined personas, thanks in large part to their director's willingness to linger after a dramatic peak and observe the characters in private, take-a-breath moments. He's got something, this guy, and I'd hate to see a movie this ethnically and sexually diverse fade away. After all, for better or worse, every generation deserves its own St. Elmo's Fire.
May 14, 2009
BOX OFFICE MAGAZINE
Director and co-writer Chris Mason Johnson makes an impressive feature debut with this ensemble dramedy about five college friends seven years after graduation. The New Twenty is smart and stylish enough to warrant a look. Lacing timeless group dynamics with current concerns, Johnson straddles the line between glossy fluff and serious generational inquiry. That won’t ensure the movie’s theatrical run amounts to anything more than a blip, but it should be good enough to earn Johnson more helming work.
Scrambling career anxiety, romantic longing, friendship bonds and generalized ennui wouldn’t result in a satisfying dish if these weren’t intelligent, attractive and well-limned characters. Along with the usual stimuli of money, booze and drugs, Johnson depicts sex with a metropolitan viscosity that allows gays and straights to intermingle with a certain degree of comfort. And, aside from Louie’s master-of-the-universe homophobia, sexual preferences and any tension surrounding sexual identity are treated in enlightened fashion.
March 20th, 2009
In addition to fine acting, The New Twenty benefits from David Tumblety’s excellent cinematography. He uses color to expressive advantage and turns routine skyline footage into a vibrant cityscape. Ballads and incidental music add another pleasant layer without taking attention away from the characters. Johnson and co-writer Ishmael Chawla (his fellow Amherst College grad) shine in a concise barroom scene during which Ben drunkenly holds forth on the nature of human suffering to an older gentleman (Larry Pine in a superb cameo), who sympathizes before gallantly asking, “How would you like a blow job from an old cowboy?”
The flamboyant flashes and pretentious shadings in their script don’t rub you the wrong way because even in the film’s most earnest moments, there’s a sense they’re exercising restraint. Felix—The New Twenty’s resident philosopher—observes, “Enthusiasm requires courage.” This is one way of saluting what Chris Mason Johnson and company have accomplished. It’s too soon to say whether Johnson the director is more “f--- buddy or soul mate” (as Tony asks roommate Felix about his squeeze), but there’s a strong chance we’ll get the opportunity to find out. Movies are arguably the only place where you can hope to encounter someone who qualifies as both.
Chris Mason Johnson’s ensemble drama could’ve been just another earnest time capsule about friends in their late twenties; what saves it from devolving into mere mumblecore is a broader-than-average outlook. Life trajectories send the quintet in disparate directions, among them Ben (Fickes), who takes to his couch with a bottle of Lubriderm, and Andrew (Locke), who’s in an equally wankworthy situation at Morgan Stanley. Unlike this genre’s usual shtick, the film includes something rarely seen onscreen: close friendships between gay and straight men. Cinematographer David Tumblety draws back and shows the bigger picture, too, with twinkly sunsets over East Village water towers.
March 19-25th, 2009
TIMEOUT NY - CRITIC'S PICK - FILM
This ensemble piece about young, yearning New Yorkers is a true group effort.
The New Twenty
TIMEOUT NY - CRITIC'S PICK - GAY & LESBIAN
The latest gay flick is chock-full of sex, drugs and drama. Johnson’s thoughtful, painful and amusing tale meets up with a family of gay and straight college pals ten years after graduation, following them through the ups and downs of living in NYC.
The New Twenty
In The New Twenty there’s nothing good about turning 30, except discovering that despite life’s tribulations, there’s always friendship. Like a highly professional piece of the currently trendy mumblecore genre, the director fashions an emotionally raw portrait of a group of lost and disillusioned New Yorkers on the brink of turning 30. There’s the constantly rejected Ben, who looks for love online and finds loneliness; Julie, a highly successful career woman with a temperamental fiancée; a drugged-out Felix, who used to want everything but lost aspiration; and Tony, the adorable homo who scores with a professor and rekindles hope for us all. The five protagonists went to college together, but maintaining friendships while transitioning into adulthood proves challenging. With palpable tension and a compelling series of almost-sex scenes (as well as actual straight couplings), The New Twenty moves forward at what is often an intentionally slow clip. The characters weigh down their dialogue with long pauses of hesitation and calculated restraint, creating moments that are effective not only for what happens but for what doesn’t. Like most mumblecore, The New Twenty isn’t easily resolved. It’s about people, it’s about growing up, and it’s about reconciling reality with what we had hoped to become. With impeccable insight, director Chris Mason Johnson reminds us to hold on to our friends tightly.
March 25, 2009
NEW YORK EXAMINER
Chris Mason Johnson’s feature debut, The New Twenty, is a relevant and brave story about friendships that tie people together in complicated ways. The film follows a group of New Yorkers who have been friends since college, and who now face major life decisions as they near thirty. The usual suspects are part of this equation: the successful investment bankers, the wizard in advertising, the freelancer and the so-called slacker. It’s a mix of gay and straight, but the bonding has nothing to do with sexual orientation, and that in itself is a breath of fresh air. Johnson does not present the usual platitudes. The New Twenty is not a gay film per se, but more of a late coming-of-age drama. The characters are suddenly growing-up, moving on and making choices that will change their lives forever. The film also mirrors the uncertainty of the times – the story takes place in 2006 – the overall discontent, the challenges of the financial world... The New Twenty is a vivid portrayal of real life and a great debut for a visionary writer-director like Johnson.
March 19, 2009
“Thirty is the new 20,” says one of a group of 29-year-old friends who have stayed together since college in “The New Twenty,” an independent drama by Chris Mason Johnson. Maybe they should say, “Twenty-nine is the new 29.” Because life as they know it is about to end. Perhaps “growing up” means letting money become more important than sex or drugs. Andrew, a banker, hates his job, in part because he’s less successful at it than Julie, his fiancee. He’s still the alpha male of the group. But one day at the gym where the guys play squash, Andrew meets a male who’s alpha-plus: Louie (Terry Serpico), a venture capitalist. This gives Andrew a chance to start his own business. Things come to a head the night of Andrew’s bachelor party, when the deck is effectively shuffled for a new, post-30 deal. And the friends get a glimpse of what they’re going to be when they grow up. While the situations are timeless, they’re given currency by being set in a “post-gay” society where orientation doesn’t matter — except when it does. “The New Twenty” was filmed in New York and has a gloss that belies its budget. It doesn’t break any new ground but walks over the old ground with skill and sensitivity, and the fine ensemble keeps things naturalistic.
January 22, 2009
The New Twenty This well-acted drama follows a diverse clique of New Yorkers pushing 30 as they deal with drugs, sex, relationships, and career challenges. When an older man infiltrates their tight-knit network and offers them a soul-rotting business deal, their friendships are pushed to the limit. Chris Mason Johnson, directing his first feature, shows a talent for capturing intimate moments.
November 15, 2008
A group of friends find their urbane lives in upheaval in The New Twenty, a Manhattan-set drama centered around career-driven Andrew and fiancée Julie, soulful, drug-addicted Felix and two queer characters including commitment-centric Tony and the stereotype-busting slacker Ben. Director Chris Mason Johnson broadens the focus from sexual orientation to the complexities of adulthood.
Nov 6–12, 2008
The New Twenty — First-time feature filmmaker Chris Mason Johnson couldn't have possibly anticipated the current goings-on in the financial world, so don't hold it against him that two of his main characters in this moody urban drama are young investment bankers. They're among a circle of five friends who have hung together since college and who, on the cusp of turning 30, find their personal and professional lives in upheaval. Cocky, charismatic Andrew is embarking on a risky business venture and about to tie the knot with Julie, a self-described sexy Asian chick who laments that she can't leave her job because she keeps getting promoted. (These two are the bankers.) Her brother, Tony, is gay and unsure of himself, especially after he gets involved with an HIV-positive professor. Tony's roommate, Felix, is a painfully sensitive lost soul and borderline drug addict who, it is hinted, may have once been in love with Julie. The quintet is rounded out — literally — by the teddy-bearish Ben, also gay, who's like a one-man conglomeration of all the other characters' neuroses. Despite their self-absorption, this is a fascinating bunch, thanks to a witty, incisive script (co-written by Johnson, who also co-produced). The movie makes good, matter-of-fact use of its New York City locations, and there's all-around solid work from the cast of relative unknowns — Ryan Locke, Nicole Bilderback, Andrew Wei Lin, Thomas Sadowski, and Colin Fickes — supplemented by indie stalwart Bill Sage as the professor and stage veteran Larry Pine in a fleeting appearance as an "old cowboy" who offers Ben a blowjob.
October 22, 2008
ALTERNATIVE FILM GUIDE Thinking Film
Of the films showing tomorrow at the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival 2008, I’ve only seen one, Chris Mason Johnson’s accomplished feature-film debut The New Twenty, about five New York City former college friends facing mid-life crises even before they reach 30. Johnson, who also wrote the intelligent screenplay with Ishmael Chawla, proves himself a capable actors’ director, for the performances are uniformly good.
Now, I should add that the Outfest synopsis doesn’t give an idea of the complex relationships found within that group of five friends and/or lovers of different sexual orientations, professional aspirations, and personal yearnings. As for relying on "the strong bonds of friendship," well, all I can say is that apparently those bonds ain’t what they used to be. And that’s exactly what gives a welcome edge to The New Twenty, one that most other friends-are-forever movies lack.
July 15th, 2008