- 1995 June Screenwriters Lab
Tomorrow and George are on their way to California from New England, with timid aspirations of becoming an actress and writer, respectively. Tomorrow's grandmother's New Jersey shore house is just a scheduled stop on the way, but soon becomes a lot more as the couple's relationship is put to the test.
In the middle of winter the shore is desolate. Vacation homes are empty and beaches are covered with snow. There exists a caretaker community of locals who operate the bare necessities to sustain the economy until the following summer. Tomorrow's chain-smoking English grandmother is a member of this "skeleton crew." She works in an arcade dispensing change and prize tickets. Tomorrow's mother, already relocated to California and entrenched in a "new age" lifestyle publishing a newsletter for indigenous American lesbians, suggests to Tomorrow that her grandmother's mental health is rapidly deteriorating and that they should sell her ocean front house and enter her into a retirement community. Tomorrow is left to interpret whether her mother is overreacting and motivated by financial gain or if her grandmother is truly ill. Torn between two unpleasant scenarios, allergic to smoke, unsure of her acting talent and not entirely convinced of George's commitment to her, Tomorrow begins to distrust the motives of everyone in her life. The claustrophobic stay-over yields disconnecting moments between her and George that make her question the plausibility of them traveling on together.
George is constantly emerged in "information." He has his head in newspapers, books, television, anything that will provide theory, trivia, or sound bytes; anything that will perpetuate the conceit needed to live the apathetic life that he has chosen for himself. One afternoon, left on his own, he allows two precocious teenage girls into the house for an alcohol soaked day. An event occurs that could definitively decide the judgment concerning Tomorrow's grandmother's health, but confessing what really happened would result in massive expense to himself. What he decides will change the future for everyone.
Intercut with documentary style interviews of winter arcade regulars, CIGARETTES is a bleak and compelling portrait of people in different stages of life, all meeting in the same off-season crossroads and subtly changing each other's direction.