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A Dying Wish to Really Live It Up

May 4, 2006 By:
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Two last things: Actors Michael Angarano and Ethan Hawke

First things first …

"One Last Thing" does not have a terminal attack of the "cutes," despite a synopsis that says love is always having to say you're horny.

Opening on Friday, May 5, this small but sizable film about a dying teen's wish to go out with a bang - an evening of love with a supersized supermodel - hits home for its creators not because of a similar longing, but because it's really not that far from home.

Writer Barry Stringfellow and director Alex Steyermark both hail from Marcus Hook, which is the hook for the screen teen's pom-pom of a prurient wish.

But there's nothing obscenely artless about the way the youngster Dylan (Michael Angarano) wants the times to be a'changing - and getting his wish to bed nubile Nikki (Sunny Mabrey) rather than score a day of fishing with a football superstar that the United Wish Givers have given him.

His dying wish to live it up makes him a media meteorite. But shooting stars eventually go dark after the dazzle, and the seriousness of the topic isn't lost on the film's writer.

Stringfellow's onscreen fella is a fellow-in-pain; the writer had to endure the long-running course of cancer that attacked his father in real life. "This was my most visceral script," says Stringfellow. "And it's the best of both of our careers."

Friendly framework: The director and writer are lifelong friends, going back to their Marcus Hook meanderings.

Still, City Council was under the misguided impression that the two wanted to make a "damning documentary" about Marcus Hook. Damn the torpedoes, full-speed ahead; they were ultimately granted permission.

But if the back-and-forth badinage is punched up with punchlines, there is also an eerily spiritual sense to the script that comes from a dark and foreboding past - not Stringfellow's, but from the director.

"My father is a Holocaust survivor, and that is one of the things that has influenced me as a filmmaker," says Steyermark, whose religious upbringing was "as a mutt," raised with the influence of his mother, "a devout French Canadian Catholic."

But while the cauterizing experience of enduring the Holocaust is a catholic one, its unworldly pain is a universal hell.

"The humanitarianism I see in my father" has its impact, says Steyermark. "I see his perspective on life as so affirming," despite having endured the death wishes of others. "He's taught me how to look at life every day, see its irony and its humor. And to that end, he's influenced me in this film," which "celebrates life as much as it is about death."

If there is an upbeat feel to this feel-good film whose hero's sexual escapade truly gives new meaning to "making a wish," it is a tune that Steyermark has made his mark with. Rock rolls through his life; his directorial debut was with Gina Gershon's "Prey for Rock and Roll" - she appears here, too - and Steyermark is developing the music-oriented "How Soon Is Never."

But it is the echo of "Never again" that reverberates here, as well as the filmmaker's own fervent wish that that refrain be borne out - if it's the one last thing he does.

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