Tramps, Netflix’s latest film release, is more of an awkward series of events than it is a romantic comedy, although it’s trying hard to be both.
Tramps tells the story of Danny and Ellie, two New York teenagers on a mission to deliver a briefcase, the contents of which are unknown to both the characters and the audience. However, when they accidentally leave the briefcase with the wrong person, they embark on a quest to get it back, complete with a few break and enters and awkward late-night campouts, which force them to get to know each other better.
The film’s plot is typical: boy meets girl in a coincidentally unlikely situation, they like each other, something is in the way of them being together, they need to figure out what it is and overcome it. Update the loose plot with some illegal activity, a minimalistically-attractive female lead character who is always smoking a cigarette, and a lead male character with an upbringing in a slightly lower-middle class ethnic neighbourhood and the plot is, well, still typical.
But this is fine. You think to yourself, “How is this movie going to take this story I’m pretty sure I’ve seen before and make it different?”
Unfortunately, Tramps doesn’t do that. Instead of taking something classic and revamping it in a way that’s a tribute to its origins but still different enough to challenge the mould and be its own, the film doesn’t break any new ground, or even present any already-established conventions in a compelling way.
Even with its déjà vu story, the connection between its lead characters has the potential to be the film’s redeeming quality. Both forced into a crime circle that neither has the intention of staying in, Danny and Ellie have to face the consequences of one simple mistake. This could be enough to carry the story until the end of the film, and Callum Turner (Danny) almost pulls it off.
Starting out as timid and shy, by the end of the film his character is more endearing than anything. Unfortunately, Grace Van Patten (Ellie) doesn’t pull through. It’s more a case of poor writing than poor acting, but the character remains flat and still impersonal throughout the entire film. Still remaining aloof to Danny, there are a few glimpses where her character feels transparent to the audience, but those end quickly, not leaving enough time to make her seem like anything more than an angsty teenager.
However, director Adam Leon’s cinematography is interesting enough to contrast the film’s dreary storyline. Unlike the plot, which seems old but with a few modern additions to make it feel updated, Leon combines classic frames with contemporary editing. A few of his shots, Ellie leaning against a concrete wall smoking a cigarette, a whole montage of a carnival with low-key lighting and classic Ferris Wheel shots, seem timeless. But others, the shaky camera movement which follows them down the stairs into the subway station, give the film a modern vibe.
Leon does a great job of highlighting the emotion that the characters, mainly Ellie, aren’t able to carry on their own. Still, it doesn’t make up for the lack of originality or intrigue, and Tramps is easily as forgettable as its characters.