This image released by Sony Pictures shows Eva Noblezada in a scene from “Yellow Rose.” (Sony Pictures via AP)
Photo: Associated Press
The indie film “Yellow Rose” tells a familiar story but does it in a wonderfully unfamiliar and regionally specific way.
Director/co-writer Diane Paragas takes what could be a cliché — a naive young performer trying to break into the world of show business — and puts it in a contemporary Texas setting where worlds and cultures collide. The result is a sweetly earnest character study and coming-of-age tale that’s impressive because of its low-key authenticity.
Eva Noblezada is Rose Garcia, a Bastrop teenager in love with country music and American roots who writes lyrics and plays acoustic guitar when she should be studying. In and of itself, that’s not all that remarkable but Rose is Filipina, the daughter of an immigrant hotel maid. There aren’t many high-school girls who look like Rose playing country music where she lives.
She doesn’t plan on playing outside of her bedroom until Elliot (Liam Booth), a guy her age who works at the guitar shop where Rose buys her strings and has a bit of a crush, gets her to sing to him. They’re on their way to Austin (her first trip into the city) to see Dale Watson at the Broken Spoke and the trip is a revelation. Not only does Elliot discover that Rose has some vocal skills but Rose is emboldened about her true passion, putting her on a collision course with her more culturally conservative, hard-working mother (Princess Punzalan).
But mom has problems of her own, namely her immigration status, that land her in hot water with ICE. And if the two of them have to go back to the Philippines, Rose will have to abandon what she really wants to do.
Rated PG-13: For some strong language, teen drinking
Running time: 94 minutes
Where: Opens Oct. 9 in theaters throughout Houston
***1/2 (out of 5)
In some ways, “Yellow Rose” could be viewed as hopelessly naive and unrealistic. Rose is on her own throughout much of the film, accompanied only by her guitar and a dream, and no one tries to take advantage of her. In fact, she ends up collaborating with Watson who, it should be noted, spends more time acting in the film than playing music.
But that’s also the movie’s charm, painting a world where all you need is talent, a little luck and a couple of shoulders to cry on when things get tough. It’s a stripped-down “A Star Is Born” without the rehab and suicide.
And, for longtime Texans still griping over the loss of such venerable Austin music hangouts as the Armadillo Ballroom, “Yellow Rose” also is something of a tragedy. Every time there’s a shot of the front of the Broken Spoke — with a modern condo complex looming next door — there’s the sinking feeling that soon there might not be any place for the future Rose Garcias of the world to realize their ambitions.