Five Star Day Shows Plenty of Good Signs

A perfectly unlikely, adorable indie comedy about astrology, fate and thesis papers

fsd cam snow Five Star Day Shows Plenty of Good Signs

Gigandet.

Cam Gigandet is the phenomenally camera-ready new movie hunk with a baby face and abs for days whose main contribution to the mediocre films he’s appeared in is stripping down to as few items of clothing as the censors will allow and showing off more skin than talent. It was the talking point of his scenes with Cher and Christina Aguilera in Burlesque and Nicole Kidman in Trespass. The pecs got all the reviews. But he’s obviously a determined cuss. The new comedy Five Star Day goes for feelings instead of stupid jokes, Mr. Gigandet leaves on more clothes than you’ll ever find on Chris Evans, and he’s not bad.

In fact, Five Star Day is a respectable and intelligent little film that is already winning awards on the film festival circuit. It’s about astrology, a subject near and dear to the readers of 75 percent of what’s left of newspapers throughout the world, and Mr. Gigandet is a 30-ish college student at Berkeley named Jake Gibson who sets out to prove it’s a bogus subject with no basis in anything but flummery. He needs an A in an ethics course to graduate, so he decides to write a paper on horoscopes as full-time flim-flam. He wakes on a cold February birthday morning to read a horoscope predicting a flawless, award-winning day, and before you can hum the first five bars of “The Age of Aquarius,” everything goes south in record time. His car is stolen, he gets fired from his day job and, after emptying his desk to go home early, he finds his girlfriend in another guy’s arms and a faucet break that floods his entire apartment. Depressed and frustrated, he Googles “February 6, 1982 at 10:32 p.m.” and finds three other people born the same night, at the same time, in the same hospital in downtown Chicago, and heads for the airport. His goal: to interview all three people with his identical horoscope and prove his theory that astrology is a sham with a capital B.S.

Moving this implausible but interesting concept along at a snail’s pace, Jake tracks down the three people who were born under the same star and discovers one surprise after another. First, there is Sarah (Jena Malone), a single mother who threatens to call the cops. When she breaks down long enough to share her own birthday experience, it’s just as bad as Jake’s. Her baby’s junkie father showed up and stole her money, credit cards and antique necklace while the social worker was paying an official call and now she fears losing custody of her child. Yvette (Brooklyn Sudano), who toils in a rehab center for troubled delinquents in a slum on Chicago’s South Side, is a married mother of two who, on her birthday, accidentally ran over a child on a bicycle and broke his arm. The third interview subject is Wesley (Max Hartman), a Sinatra-clone lounge singer in Las Vegas who gets Jake stoned on a night crawl of after-hours jazz clubs and forgets to confess that he has just learned he has cancer. What they all confirm is Jake’s original suspicion that horoscopes are a lot of hokum, but against his better judgment he’s made three new friends and his defenses are down. How he helps them, how he traces the junkie to the New York Hilton and finds Sarah’s stolen necklace, and what he ends up writing for his overdue college thesis form the basis of a likeable and tidy little movie indeed. I won’t tell you how it all turns out, but I liked the idea that it’s not whether people who share your horoscope share your same fate, it’s how you deal with fate that matters.

Writer-director Danny Buday has problems telling a simple story in a straightforward narrative style, so the days jump around in time frames that get the movie off to a slow and clumsy start. But Ms. Malone, the cute child star who made a major impression in her first film, the shocking Bastard Out of Carolina, has developed into a lovely and mature woman with range and depth, and Mr. Gigandet shows surprising sensitivity and sweetness previously untapped. He’s not what I expected, and neither is Five Star Day.

rreed@observer.com

FIVE STAR DAY

Running Time 97 minutes

Written by Danny Buday

Directed by Danny Buday

Starring Cam Gigandet, Jena Malone and Julianna Guill

3/4