Rodney (Steve Olson) is, despite all his best efforts, a loser. Jobless, directionless and dumped by his girlfriend (who has been cheating on him for months) he is at his lowest point. With nowhere else to go, Rodney drives until his car quits on him, leaving him stranded in front of a stranger's house. The next morning he's awoken by June (Katherine Cortez), a cantankerous, drunk widow who gruffly admonishes him for stealing her electricity. Instead of calling the police though, June puts him to work around the house, to earn his keep and unbeknownst to both of them an unexpected friendship begins to flourish.
Fishbowl California is one of those classic indie American films. People conversing in rooms about life, the joys, the struggles, all while sharing laughter and tears along the way. There is essentially nothing new in this 'unexpected buddy' film, however that does not mean there is not joy to be found in the story told.
A relationship based on loneliness, the desire for companionship and the abilitiy to hurl verbal barbs with relentless pace is key to the films strengths. Both Olsen and Cortez revel in their roles and what feels like a genuine friendship and care for each other is the result. There is respect in this relationship, an acknowledgement of each others flaws and the realisation that each of these characters see something of themselves in the other. I could have watched this pair verbally spar back and forth for much longer than the films 82 minute runtime allowed.
Pleasantries between Rodney and June's daughter Olivia (Jenna Willis) thankfully do not descend into the expected relationship trope that their first meeting would imply and the film makers should be applauded for this. That would be the Hollywood story but Fishbowl has a stronger reality than that. The film is aware that life is messier than that and these characters have their own messes to deal with rather than trifle with meet cutes and romantic gazes.
If I am to be critical in any way it is that other minor characters get little time in their interactions with the main pairing (although June's interactions with her neighbour are wonderfully blunt). Alsoand perhaps more surprisingly, the film concludes a little too quickly. With a short run time the final acts time jumps feel a little out of step with the rest of the film and undid a lot of the well earned momentum the film had gained. These however are only minor quibbles that should not deter anyone from engaging with this film.
Fishbowl California is worth seeking out for its heart, performances and its good intentions. The acknowledgement that we all have struggles, tales of pain, tales of joy and perhaps that we may be the very thing that someone unknown to us, who may be a short distance away needs even if they themselves don't know it.