If you are tired of typical Hollywood ‘teen-fare’ – all those beautiful kids in unbelievable situations with that overproduced veneer – then check out “Steve’s Cake.” at the Golden, 2034 6th St. for a one-week run at the end of the month.
With a pace somewhat akin to real-life, “Steve’s Cake” takes a low-budget, low-key approach to being an 18-year-old.
Shooting in Oakland in nine days on a shoestring budget, local filmmaker Anthony Jennings, author of “Feature Filmmaking at Used Auto Prices,” cast his son, Steve Jennings-Feng, in the title role of a bewildered, bemused teenager who is at the same time overwhelmed by life’s everyday pressures.
“Steve’s” parents are divorced, he is disinterested in either working or staying in school; his girlfriend is pregnant and the draft board looms in his future. After his artist/short-order cook father (a wonderful performance by Denis Hank Owens) gives him a practical and hilarious lesson in late-60s draft-dodging.
Steve finds inspiration for a scheme to avoid the draft in an item from the Chronicle’s Sunday “Grab Bag”; Baking a White House cake is illegal.
With long shots of everyday activities, this father and son docu-fiction has an anecdotal flavor. There’s Steve speaking to the camera while house painting with girlfriend Helen; the interminable yet never boring family dinner table scene when they announce her pregnancy; Steve working for a moving company that delivers the wrong home appliance; his friend and part-time boss Derek (local soundman Derek Blake), hanging back in a gravity chair, sipping ginseng cocktails, telling Steve that life will take care of itself; or his mother leaving town to deal with her own life. Steve’s problems are met with a quirky detachment characteristic of his generation.
Jennings addresses this gulf between generations without criticism but as a concerned observer. Steve appeals to us because his problems are real, and his confusion un-hyped. You can’t help but like a kid who uses a blow-dryer to fire the barbecue up, and bakes a cake to dodge the draft.