The Ocean of Helena Lee is the story of a 12 year-old beach rat (Moriah Blonna) and her narcissistic, womanizing surfer father (Tom Dunne). Helena is lost without her recently deceased mother and tries to numb the pain by writing out what she observes in life at the beach. Surrounding himself with strippers and discount booze, Helena’s father is possibly the worst representative to his impressionable daughter of what a man should be. For an hour and a half, the two show fade in and out of their Venice Beach, CA lives and Helena is surrounded by people who give horrible impressions of what the ideal of feminine perfection should be.
The difficulty with The Ocean of Helena Lee is that none of the characters build enough of themselves for the audience to care. Truth be told, if I wanted to watch a preteen be angsty for an hour and a half, I’d just go to my friend’s house and talk to her daughter. With strippers on the menu, including one that looks like a feminine Michael Jackson, I found myself wondering what sort of father would allow his rampant womanizing to be witnessed over and over by his teenager who sleeps in a closet. He is intentionally selfish, though he keeps pretending to be a great teacher of the important apathetic facts of life. Sadly, the title character is a runner up in the act like Kristen Stewart competition. Though she has deeply powerful lines, as do many other members of the cast, no one seems to be able to deliver a line with power or emotion. The entire film feels like a group of actors smoked a large amount of weed before filming and just started talking.
If you can get past the first hour of The Ocean of Helena Lee, my hat is off to you. I found the film the type of trite indie cinema that becomes impossible to watch, even if one fast forwards through all the images of waves. Do yourself a favor and surf past this one.
The film opens in Los Angeles on May 8 at the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre and on May 14th at The Aero Theatre in Santa Monica.