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With: Lane Garrison, Brian Burnam, Mackenzie Firgens, Luis Saguar, Gerald Black
Written by: Brian Burnam, Benjamin Morgan
Directed by: Benjamin Morgan
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, some drug use and violence
Running Time: 85
Date: 03/19/2013

Quality of Life (2005)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

More American Graffiti

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

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Could Quality of Life be the best low-budget indie ever shot in San Francisco's Mission District? There's not much question, especially since the few other features in that category range from awkward to forgettable. Written by Brian Burnam and Benjamin Morgan and directed by Morgan, Quality of Life goes surprisingly deep into the lives of a couple of street graffiti artists. The hero, Michael Rose (Lane Garrison) -- whose tag is "Heir" -- works with his dad (Luis Saguar, from San Francisco's Campo Santo troupe) as a house painter by day and dreams of becoming a graffiti-inspired graphic artist. His best friend Curtis Smith (Brian Burnam) -- whose tag is "Vain" -- has no such alternate plans. Curtis lives with his pretty girlfriend Lisa (Mackenzie Firgens) and her adorable little boy from a former relationship (Gerald Black), but he refuses to buckle down, even when our protagonists are caught and arrested. Morgan finds a distinctive new personality within the forgotten recesses of San Francisco, shooting in neighborhoods that I've never seen; he gives the same care to his characters and his actors, asking them for tough emotional moments and actually getting them. Best of all, Quality of Life cleverly equates graffiti with Buddhist mandala (sand drawings), bringing an unexpected calm to the otherwise hardcore subject matter. The title refers to a law adopted in most major cities that equates graffiti with robbery and rape and brings with it serious jail time.

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