Rebel//Rebel | Film Threat

May 17, 2023

Struggling with addiction, Jake Hughes, a former Hollywood star, hopes to revive his career in a small Midwestern town in Drew Harwood’s feature, Rebel//Rebel. Jake Hughes (Gareth Koorzen) is the said struggling actor, and his final chance at his tenuous grasp at stardom is a small indie production filming on the outskirts of Cincinnati, Ohio. Giving Jake his one last chance is his producer friend, AJ (Chris Taylor). On the car trip, AJ insists that Jake stays clean throughout the production.
As Jake checks into his motel, he is confronted with the not-so-subtle attempts to keep an eye on him. His handler, Leann (Katie Garland-Noble), has been posted outside his door to ensure he doesn’t go anywhere at night. His co-star Cali (Heather Fay) is also there to make friends and keep him at bay.
Jake, though, has been using for a long time and knows all the tricks to dodge his handlers and find drugs in a town he doesn’t know. While on a “quick trip” to the local convenience store, Jake meets Brandon (Drew Harwood), who just happens to have a drug supplier and invites Jake to a party that evening. Brandon is legit, and Jake now has all he needs to get through this shoot.
Rebel//Rebel has an interesting take on the drug addict’s story. It’s not the well-worn tale of the addict’s struggle with temptation, ruins everything, and finds salvation in rehab. Jake doesn’t precisely have a character or plot arc in the film. Rebel//Rebel is much more about the addict and their relationship with those around them, whether long-time friends, passive acquaintances, and complete strangers. These relationships are tested along the way.

“…AJ insists that Jake stays clean throughout the production.”
Starting with AJ, he is the one who has put his professional reputation on the line for a friend. AJ is the one responsible for getting him on set and sober. With Jake, it soon becomes a game of cat and mouse.
Then there are Jake’s new professional relationships. One is with his co-star Cali, who goes in with the best intentions and is confronted with the sober reality of Jake’s problem. Sandra (Sidney Edwards) is the motel’s housekeeper who strikes a friendship with Jake. Their relationship is one of admiration on both ends and tested throughout.
The most caustic interaction comes with his new best friend and drug dealer, Brandon. As the two become fast friends, Jake is led into dangerous encounters with Brandon’s drug associates. Also, their partying gets Jake into the most trouble with AJ and the other producers of his film.
Gareth Koorzen gives a fascinating performance as Jake. He is the throughline in this tale. Subtle is the best way to describe Koorzen’s performance. He maintains a somewhat even keel through the film, modulating just enough to hint at whether he’s heading to a dark place or, if he’s right there, ready to do his job. If you’ve ever known (yet not known) an addict, Koorzen’s portrayal rings frightfully authentic.
Also pulling this story off is the film’s fantastic cast, chock with new and emerging actors. But, again, this character-driven is all about subtlety. Each character that Jake interacts with represents a different person at a different place in an addict’s life. Each character is tested and pushed to their limits to see how they react. Some don’t need to be pushed very far, while others choose to go the distance with Jake without knowing the end game.
Addiction is one of those subjects that we all have experience with. Whether it is our own personal struggle or a struggle a friend or family member faces, it’s easy to see the situation from our point of view. Writer/director Drew Harwood chooses to forgo telling the “Oscar-bait” extreme character arc of the addiction and instead grounds the addict’s story to a level that we all have faced on the human level—no lessons here, but a tale of empathy instead.

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