On April 30, the feature film Night Club played to a packed house at the Newport Beach Film Festival – its first public screening in California. Concerning a group of USC students who work the night shift at a retirement home, the dramedy stars a host of young talent alongside old-timers Ernest Borgnine, Mickey Rooney and Sally Kellerman, with memorable cameos by Paul Sorvino, Chuck McCann and many others.
The film was produced and directed by Sam Borowski, who dedicated the picture to his mother, who was inflicted with Alzheimer’s disease before her recent passing. Borowski also laces the film with numerous homages to Ron Howard’s breakthrough 1982 comedy, Night Shift, and even casts Howard’s father Rance and brother Clint, who are mainstays in nearly every film Howard has directed.
Its appearance at the Newport Beach Film Festival came on the heels of Night Club’s world premiere as the closing night film of the Phoenix Film Festival. For that showing, the film sold out the 450-seat Cine Capri Theater – the largest screen in the state of Arizona. Newport Beach was similarly packed with an estimated 175 full seats, plus standing-room-only for some cast and crew members.
In the film’s twist, the three friends who are simultaneously hired at the retirement home decide to breathe life into the residence by creating an after-hours night club on site. The results provide unexpected comedy, tragedy and other surprises. And the young stars in the film, including Zachary Abel (Make It or Break It), Ahney Her (Gran Torino) and newcomer Bryan Williams, get to hold their own against actors with 50+ years of experience. What’s more, Slums of Beverly Hills breakout star Natasha Lyonne shines as the daytime director of the downtown Los Angeles facility.
Noting that their movie starts out as a Judd Apatow-type comedy, the filmmakers are quick to point out that it evolves into a heartfelt tale about the younger generation’s relationship to the elderly. Hollywood royalty like Borgnine – who won an Oscar for 1955’s Marty and recently won a Screen Actors Guild lifetime achievement award – speak to that effect with his confident turn in the role of a former night club owner now living begrudgingly in the less-than-lively home, which is at first positioned as being one step from morgue status before the arrival of the night supervisors.
Due to the closeness with his mother and her recent situation, Borowski positioned Night Club as a personal film. “This movie is going to change the perception and myths that people have about the elderly, and what they have to offer,” Borowski said. “They have a lot of wisdom and humor and important things to offer our world. And they should never be forgotten.”
Samantha Renzi, the programmer for Night Club at the Newport Beach Film Festival, and herself a grandchild of an Alzheimer’s patient, noted that the film is for all audiences, young and old alike. “There is something in Night Club for everyone because most people can relate,” she said. “It is not just a personal story for the filmmaker, but a personal story that we have all felt or been affected by at some point in our lives.”
Night Club is continuing to play festivals before receiving wider distribution.