By Laurie Coker

Rating: C+

Take Out Girl is a little Indy film that almost could have been – great. Director Hisonni Johnson can’t quite pull off the tension necessary to capture the heart of the deeply disturbing story of desperation and deceit. Rich characters and a solid cast offer promise but the film falls back on stereotypes and stock storytelling. Yes, the film makes its mark in a genre mired with too many sloppy movies to count, but more because of the cast and less because of anything fresh.

Tara (Hedy Wong), a stellar student, delivers food for the family restaurant that has nearly broken her single mother (Lynna Yee). Her brother deliver’s takeout too and a cousin covers dine-in tables, but money is scarce and the burden is weighing heavily on them all. After a food delivery to a drug dealer, Tara takes her future into her own hand. She stands toe-to-toe with Lalo (Ski Carr) and tells him his people are lazy and sloppy and worse, obvious. She convinces him that no one will suspect an Asian takeout girl doing his “deliveries.”

Wong is appropriately brooding and gutsy as Tara. She commands her scenes and when she stands up to Carr as Lalo it is believable. Carr offers up the quintessential hardcore kingpin with a glimmer of a soft side. Still, some might call him cartoon-ish in some ways. Yee’s performance is exceptional. It is a strong ensemble group and Johnson uses them well in her freshman efforts. There a few engaging moments but more often than not, things just roll along at a plodding pace.

Ultimately, however, none of it feels real and the characters are set up in a way that hardly warrants caring. There is a forced feeling about it how the storylines up and even the music seems contrived and stereotyping. The final twists are more melodrama than effective leading to an unsatisfying end. Johnson has an eye for direction and a notable grasp on her content, but she would benefit from a more robust script with which to work.  Take Out Girl earns a C+ in the grade book.

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