A rambling valentine to San Francisco musician Goh Nakamura, Surrogate Valentine is a stylish pseudo-portrait that refracts Nakamuras gently impassive persona and lilting indie pop ballads through several lenses. As the film opens in black-and-white, things are looking up for Goh: He has picked up a gig training famous TV actor Danny (Chadd Stoops) to play guitar and strike credible rock star poses for a film role; a studio guru has offered to record his next album; and someone named Emily wants to make out. The question of what constitutes rock star fame in a fractured culture underlines Gohs slow-burn interactions with Danny, an actorly combination of credulity and garrulousness who mimics Gohs laconic affect with reverence. The script for Dannys film, which happens to borrow heavily from Gohs fictional life, confronts the perennially touring musician with a second, more familiar reflection: the guy who let the girl slip away. The girl, old flame Rachel (Lynn Chen), surfaces to show off her insipid boyfriend and recharge her comfortable chemistry with Goh. Director Dave Boyle (White on Rice) cultivates a sweet, shucksy tone that wears thin in some of the early scenes but ultimately deepens into genuine heart.
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