Fantastic Fest 2017 Day 6

3 Foot Ball & Souls

Four members of an internet chat room decide to commit suicide together. One of them acquires a giant firework ball that they’ll use to blow themselves up, and they all meet at a remote shed. But when they see that one of them is a schoolgirl, they try to convince her to back out. Undeterred, she presses the button, only to have things reset to a few minutes before the blast so they have to go through everything again. And again, and again. It’s quite funny at first, then turns serious. The ending could be a lot less sappy, but it’s pretty good overall.

 

Anyab (aka Fangs; repertory film from 1981)

While driving in the middle of nowhere on a rainy night, a couple gets a flat tire with no spare. They make their way to the nearest house to use the phone only to discover that it doesn’t work and they must spend the night. And it’s a house with vampires and people who break out into song. If it weren’t clear from the bare premise that this Egyptian movie is a knock-off of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, you could probably guess when one of the main characters puts on a Rocky Horror T-shirt. Although even then you could be forgiven for overlooking that since the movie also has musical cues from The Munsters, The Pink Panther, Jaws, and James Bond movies, and also Batman-style exclamations in fight scenes. The movie may not make much sense, and the subtitles are laughably terrible, but it’s still far better than the original version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

 

The Square

Christian (Claes Bang) is the head curator at a large museum in Stockholm. They’re getting a new exhibit called “The Square”, which is simply a square on the ground whose perimeter is framed in lights. It’s supposed to represent a “be nice to each other” zone, and they’re having trouble figuring out how to market it. Meanwhile, he’s also confronted with other problems, like having his wallet and phone stolen, having a one-night stand with a reporter (Elisabeth Moss) who doesn’t think it was a one-night stand, coordinating a performance art installation featuring a man acting like an animal, and being a part-time father to his two daughters. It’s the latest comedy by Ruben Östlund, and it’s both funnier and more effective than Force Majeure.

 

Revenge

Richard, Stan, and Dimitri are rich white guys who have planned a desert hunting trip together. Richard came early and brought his girlfriend Jennifer, expecting her to be gone before the other guys get there, but they’re early, too. One thing leads to another, and Jennifer gets raped. Richard tries to buy her off, but that doesn’t go over well, and there’s an altercation in which she’s left for dead. She isn’t, though, and she’s mad. This is a very fun movie, but there isn’t anything about it that is even slightly believable. Starting with the aforementioned altercation, just about everything done to advance the plot depends on something that is utterly implausible or downright impossible. You really have to suspend your disbelief if you want to enjoy this one to the fullest.

Cold Hell

Özge is a taxi driver who can take care of herself. One night after getting home from a shift, she sees a killer in the act through her window. Except she can’t make out his face, and now he knows where she lives. What follows is an intense thriller with no downtime in which each hunts the other and Özge just can’t catch a break. The premise has been done before, but rarely this well.

Fantastic Fest 2017 Day 5

King Cohen

Larry Cohen is a legendary writer, director, and producer of low-budget independent exploitation films, from blaxploitation movies like Bone, Black Caesar, and Hell Up in Harlem to horror movies like The Stuff, It’s Alive, and Maniac Cop. This documentary chronicles his body of work through interviews with Cohen, those he’s worked with (including Fred Williamson, Yaphet Kotto, Robert Forster, Rick Baker, and Michael Moriarty), and those he’s influenced (like JJ Abrams, Martin Scorsese, and John Landis). It’s a very straightforward film that’s exactly what you’d expect it to be, and it’s good.

 

My Friend Dahmer

Before he was a serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer was a high school student. He was an awkward kid who liked collecting roadkill and dissolving it down to the skeleton in acid, and who would occasionally pretend to be spastic. This latter activity drew the attention of a group of boys who thought it was funny and formed the Jeffrey Dahmer fan club as a means of goading him into doing it more. As school progressed, Dahmer became increasingly affected by violent urges. It’s a well-made film, but it meanders a bit and is ultimately nothing special.

 

The Accomplice (short film)

A man comes home from a business trip to find his answering machine full of messages from a friend orchestrating a bank robbery and involving him in it. It’s simple, quick, and funny.

 

Under the Tree

Agnes and Atli are in a martial slump. When she catches him watching a video in which he’s having sex with another woman, she throws him out, and he goes to stay with his parents. And by the way, his parents in an escalating with their neighbors over his parents’ tree and the neighbors’ dog. It’s a very dark film, and while it is frequently infused with a dry gallows humor, there are still many serious scenes, and it’s hard to call it a comedy.

 

Catherine (short film)

When her old, worn-out teddy bear finally falls apart, it’s replaced by a fish, which Catherine quickly loves to death. The same with the bird and the dog. Everything she loves dies. It’s simple but fun.

 

Radius

A man wakes up next to a crashed vehicle with a head injury and no memory of who he is. His driver’s license gives him his name (Liam) and address, and he starts to make his way from the remote crash site back to civilization. But he soon learns that all people and animals around him die if he gets too close. Except for another woman, who claims she was also in the crash and also has amnesia but no ID to tell her who she is. For some reason, her presence suppresses whatever force causes everyone to die. The police work out that Liam is somehow connected to the deaths of many people he came in contact with before working out what was going on, so Liam and Jane Doe must work together to figure out who they are, what happened, and what to do about it before the police catch up to them and separate them. It’s a really well-done film with a kind of sci-fi that’s right up my alley.

Ron Goossens: Low-Budget Stuntman

Ron Goossens is a drunk. He achieved a few minutes of fame when he was captured on video doing something stupid, and he’s given a job offer as a stuntman as a result. Meanwhile, his wife is fed up with him and his selfish, inebriated lifestyle. She won’t take him back until he proves that he has learned how to treat a woman, which he must demonstrate by wooing the hot leading lady of all of The Netherlands’ most successful films. It’s a terrible movie that is completely pointless and shockingly unfunny.

Fantastic Fest 2017 Day 4

Gerald’s Game

Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) and Jessie (Carla Gugino) plan a vacation in a remote cabin to work on their marital problems. But Gerald is an asshole and perhaps a little clueless, so he brings out the handcuffs and chains her arms to the bedposts, leaving her splayed and helpless. She’s not into this, and they argue for a bit before he agrees to free her. Except he has a heart attack and dies before that happens, so she’s stuck there, waiting for a rescue that’s probably not coming, for some unlikely idea that might allow her to save herself, or for death. I’m not sure that the epilogue is necessary, as takes a pretty hard left turn from what precedes it, but it’s otherwise a dark, creepy, icky, and otherwise pretty doggone good adaptation of a Stephen King novel many thought to be unfilmable.

 

Gilbert

Gilbert Gottfried is a comedian with an abrasive voice and who frequently has an equally abrasive act. He’s vulgar and insensitive and doesn’t consider anything out of bounds. But at home, he’s different. He’s got a sweet, loving wife and two cute kids. He’s got two sisters that he visits on an almost daily basis when he’s not traveling. And to call him frugal would be an understatement. This totally engrossing documentary shows him at home and on the road, and it’s mostly hilarious in appropriate and inappropriate ways, but it’s also very personal and touching. It’s the kind of film that few people might want, but everyone will love.

 

Girl at the Door (short film)

Hye-ri and her little brother spend most nights cowering in fear in her room. Their dad becomes violent and aggressive, presumably from drinking. Unfortunately, their mom isn’t as lucky when it comes to evading his abuse. Hye-ri decides that she needs to learn wrestling techniques so she can put a stop to his reign of terror. It’s a good South Korean short, and it pairs very well with Mom and Dad.

Mom and Dad

Something is causing parents to attack and try to kill their children. It only applies to their own children; they’re indifferent to, or perhaps even protective of, other people’s children as long as they don’t get in the way. Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair just happen to be the parents of two of those kids, and they succumb to those urges. It’s an immensely fun movie overall, but Nicolas Cage going full-on Nicolas Cage at many points throughout the film really gives it that additional push of awesomeness.

Brad’s Status

Ben Stiller’s non-comedy films are kind of a mixed bag, but I suppose that’s also true of his comedy films, too. But this one is particularly rough, and it’s hard to understand how this one even got made.

Stiller plays Brad Sloan, who runs a non-profit organization and has made a pretty good life for himself. He and his wife Melanie (Jenna Fischer) live a comfortable living even though she works for the government and their very smart and musically gifted son Troy (Austin Abrams) is planning to go to an ivy-league school in the fall. But when he compares himself to his very wealthy and successful college friends (including Michael Sheen, Luke Wilson, Jermaine Clement, and Mike White), he considers himself a failure. And when he takes Troy on a trip to Boston to check out a number of potential colleges, he spends pretty much the entire time moping about it and the realization that he’s really not even all that close with those friends anymore.

This movie is nothing short of a white privilege pity party of first-world problems. It does call itself out on this about halfway through when a college student (Shazi Raja) tries to give him a reality check, and yet Brad continues to wallow in his middle-class funk for at least another half an hour before he reaches the obvious and unsatisfying conclusion that his friends’ lives aren’t all that great after all (or at least that they aren’t great people), while his life isn’t all that bad. It’s dull and tone deaf and eminently skippable.

Fantastic Fest 2017 Day 3

Nothing a Little Soap and Water Can’t Fix (short film)

A supercut of movie bath scenes, especially in horror movies. Related scenes from all aspects of bath-taking are interspersed, from turning the water on to undressing to getting in to soaking, and then to pleasure and pain. It’s fun to be reminded of many of these films, and it’s an entertaining if insignificant work.

 

78/52

Psycho is one of the greatest films of all time, horror or otherwise, and the shower scene is its centerpiece. This documentary focuses on that one scene, both in the context of Psycho itself, as well as its impact on and influence over other films. It’s got everything you’d expect to see in a documentary about that one scene, from a breakdown of the shots to Bernard Herrmann’s score to what exactly is and isn’t shown, but it’s also full of interviews with film lovers putting it into both historical and personal context. It’s clearly a labor of love and a must-see movie for anyone who loves Psycho, Hitchcock, or film in general.

 

Your Date Is Here (short film)

A mother and daughter sit down to play a game, and it’s an old game the daughter found in the closet that looks like it’s from the 1950s. It’s got a telephone that you can use to talk to potential dates, and they start getting weird, creepy calls. It’s a light, fun short with a good ending.

 

Haunters: The Art of the Scare

Some haunted houses are more extreme than others. Most of them just have people walking through a maze with monsters jumping out at them, but others have more aggressive treatment where people are restrained, waterboarded, shocked, and otherwise tortured. Most of them have a safe word, but at least one doesn’t. This documentary focuses on those extreme haunts, the people who make them, and the people who go through them. It starts off very funny and highly energetic but then becomes increasingly problematic as the lines between fright, assault, and torture get blurred. They seem to attract people with questionable intentions, and there is a glaring lack of discussion on whether or how some of this is even legal, while at least one of them (the one with no safe word, whose proprietor is in it primarily for the videos of terrified people) must repeatedly close down and try his luck elsewhere.

 

Super Dark Times

Zach and Josh are best friends. They’re hanging out with acquaintances Charlie and Daryl when it comes out that Zach’s older brother, who’s joined the Marines and moved away, has a sword in his old room. The boys get the sword and go outside to engage in some ill-advised horseplay, which ends in Daryl getting accidentally stabbed and killed. The other three hide the body and make a pact to keep it a secret. But they still have to deal with the knowledge of what happened. Each of them does that poorly in his own way. It is indeed a dark time, but one well worth seeing for the performances and the conclusion.

 

V.I.P.

There’s a serial killer on the loose in South Korea and elsewhere, and the police are after him. The only problem is that his father is a higher-up from North Korea, and his son is believed to have information about North Korean/Chinese bank accounts, so the Americans (led by Peter Stormare) really want to get their hands on him. Written and directed by Park Hoon-jung (perhaps best known for writing the incredible I Saw the Devil), this film is much more procedural than revenge-driven but is still well worth watching.

 

The Drop-In (short film)

A hairdresser is cleaning up her shop after closing for the day when a woman arrives, asking if she could still get in. The hairdresser relents but soon realizes that the woman isn’t really there for a haircut. Her past has caught up with her. In the span of only a few minutes, the film undergoes multiple transformations into different stories, and while I’m not sure I love where it ends up, it’s definitely an interesting journey to get there.

Jailbreak

The police arrest Playboy, believing him to be the head of a criminal organization, only to learn that he’s just a stooge. But he agrees to make a deal with them and reveal the identity of the woman who’s really in charge in exchange for protection. So the cops take him to prison to put him in solitary confinement until he can testify and the gang can be taken down. But the real head lady doesn’t care for that and uses her connections inside the prison to orchestrate a riot to get to Playboy. The handful of police officers who had been escorting him are trapped inside the prison and must use their martial arts skills, especially the Cambodian bokator fighting style, to first get to Playboy, and then to get themselves to safety. It’s like a Cambodian version of The Raid, and while it’s not as skillfully made, while the attempts at comedy fall pretty flat, and while the fighting isn’t as creative or intense, it still offers a good time and at least a couple of cheer-inducing moments.

Fantastic Fest 2017 Day 2

Hagazussa: A Heathen’s Curse

Believing her to be a witch, people don’t regard Albrun all that well. She’s harassed whenever she goes out, and the one woman who talks to her doesn’t seem that nice after all. The plot is virtually nonexistent and the pacing glacial, so the film depends entirely on atmosphere, and that is created primarily through bleak imagery and a soundtrack comprised mostly of droning tones. If you saw The Witch and wish it weren’t so modern, cheerful, or action-packed, then Hagazussa may be the movie for you. It is not the movie for me.

 

Letterkenny

A hilarious Canadian TV show about a farmer named Wayne (show creator Jared Keeso), his sister Katy (Michelle Mylett), and his best friend Daryl (aka Dairy, played by Nathan Dales). They live in Letterkenny, Ontario, where jocks play hockey, and the skids do drugs and breakdance in goth attire. We watched a selection of six episodes from the first two seasons:

  • S1E1 — Wayne is bummed after the end of a long-term relationship. Dairy suggests that he go to a church group to meet girls, while Katy suggests Tindr, which is confused with Grindr.
  • S1E2 — Wayne must repeatedly defend his title as the best fighter in Letterkenny while he and Katy plan a “soft” birthday party for Dairy.
  • S1E6 — Wayne discovers marijuana growing on his property and has trouble getting rid of it. Meanwhile, the skids incur the wrath of a lady meth dealer for everyone in town.
  • S2E1 — Dairy convinces Wayne be should be president of the agricultural society, Katy starts dating the head skid Stewart, and a couple of hockey jocks move up and find they’re out of their league.
  • S2E3 — Katy hires a matchmaker for Wayne, and he goes on a series of dates. Stewart gives Katy the silent treatment but she doesn’t notice, and the skids kick Stewart out of their group.
  • S2E6 — Wayne tries to find a stud to impregnate Katy’s dog Stormy, but she keeps attacking all comers. Stewart deals with having been kicked out of the skids, and the hockey jocks find they’re not having as much fun as they used to.

 

Anna and the Apocalypse

It’s Christmas in Scotland, and high school senior Anna (Ella Hunt) and her friends are dealing with all the usual drama, including a theater teacher with a god complex. They frequently deal with it by breaking out into singing and dancing, which is good because they’re putting on a Christmas program at school. But this year is a little more tense than usual because there’s also a zombie outbreak, and the singing and dancing are accompanied by running and fighting and decapitation. It’s a highly entertaining film, especially when it’s in full-on, high-energy mode with creative kills, clever songs, and unexpected turns. It does seem to lose a bit of steam heading into the end of the second act, and they missed a huge opportunity to have singing and dancing zombies, but it’s still a must-watch movie for anyone who thinks that a Christmas zombie musical might be a must-watch movie.

 

Rabbit

Maude and Cleo are identical twins (both played by Adelaide Clemens). Cleo goes missing and is presumed dead, but Maude keeps having visions of her location and captors. She convinces Cleo’s fiancé and a friend to accompany her on a trip to find her, and they eventually end up at a trailer park where they find a couple who claims to have seen her. Then things go in a different direction. It’s a fascinating film that seems to go off on a tangent for a while before reinventing itself into a different kind of movie, and I like the second more than the first.

 

The End of Decay (short film)

A man confined to a wheelchair has decided to use himself as a guinea pig for a procedure he hopes will allow him to walk again. The treatment is successful but has side effects. It’s a well-made short with some good effects, although it does seem like there’s a little too much unnatural exposition used to let the audience in on what’s going on.

 

Applecart

Casey (Brea Grant) has planned a family trip to a mountain cabin in the hope that it will do some good for her ailing husband James (AJ Bowen). But shortly after they arrive, they find a woman (Barbara Crampton) lying in the snow in need of resuscitation. They don’t know who she is, but we do thanks to a political advertisement on TV: she’s running for president. And also thanks to television programming in the form of a true crime program, we’re also clued into some bad things that are about to go down at the cabin. It’s a good concept for a modern kind of Rashomon story with multiple perspectives, and the show within the movie is particularly enjoyable as it’s dripping with satire, although I probably would have liked the movie more if they had relied less on the supernatural.

Fantastic Fest 2017 Day 1

Thoroughbreds

Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) is a rich girl who hates her stepfather and is trying not to let on that her life isn’t going as well as she would like. Amanda (Olivia Cooke) is a rich girl who is devoid of emotion, is charged with animal cruelty for the unconventional way she put her horse down, and makes no attempt to hide her problems from the world. They become unlikely friends and decide that they might need to take drastic action to deal with Lily’s dislike of her stepfather. Also featuring Anton Yelchin as a drug dealer whose criminal past is interfering with his future aspirations, it’s a fun dark comedy that is well acted. It progresses slowly but is never boring, and definitely doesn’t make the mistake of showing too much.

 

The Passenger (short film)

A former cosmonaut must deal with life back on Earth after an incident long ago. Things keep going wrong for him, and he drinks a lot. We’re stuck watching this guy mope for longer than necessary before the reveal, which is not nearly enough to make up for the tedium of what comes before it.

 

Salyut-7

The titular Soviet space station has taken a hit and lost power and is spinning on all axes. Fortunately, it’s currently unmanned, but without power, it’s only a matter of time until it falls out of its orbit and crashes to Earth, possibly in an inhabited area. And to make matters worse, it looks like those pesky Americans are scrambling to launch a shuttle with a cargo bay conveniently just big enough to hold the small station. The Russians must get there first and fix the station to save Soviet pride, and if they can’t,  then they’ll need to shoot it down to prevent the Americans from getting their hands on it. Based on a true story, it’s quite entertaining but surprisingly melodramatic,  almost to the point of being ridiculous.

 

Two-Sentence Horror Stories: Singularity (short film)

A female-identifying transgendered person decides to continue modifying herself by implanting an antenna into her arm that gives her body access to the internet. She can’t consciously use it yet, but she’s definitely getting signals, and then she starts seeing things and suspects that her body might be communicating with others on her behalf. It’s an interesting idea encapsulated in a well-made film.

Vampire Clay

An art teacher at a small, rural Japanese school comes across a mysterious bag of clay. Her students start using it, and then weird things start happening. The clay begins to take them over. It’s an interesting premise that’s played for laughs at the beginning, and it works well then, despite some pretty crappy effects. But then it starts trying to explain things, and it loses its charm well before it finally comes to an end (then keeps going for a while longer as it tacks on additional unnecessary scenes).

Infinity Baby

Austin-based filmmaker Bob Byington has been on a roll lately. I didn’t care for Harmony and Me, which was the first of his films that I saw, but I enjoyed RSO [Registered Sex Offender] and 7 Chinese Brothers, and I really liked Somebody Up There Likes Me quite a bit. Byington continues the trend with his latest film, Infinity Baby.

At some point in the hypothetical future, lawmakers will pass a law that bans abortion but loosens restrictions around fetal stem cell research. One failed experiment resulted in around a thousand babies that don’t seem to age, so they’ll stay infants their whole lives. To deal with this, the company that owns the research lab created a subsidiary named Infinity Baby whose goal is to ensure that all of these babies get adopted. Any takers will be paid $20,000 for a three-month trial, and it’s not even that much of a hassle because the babies don’t really cry all that much, and they have special medication that only requires them to eat once a week, which also results in them only pooping once a week. Even still, it’s not easy to find people who will sign up to adopt a perpetual baby, and salesmen Larry and Malcolm (Kevin Corrigan and Martin Starr) aren’t having great luck. Meanwhile, their boss Ben (Kieran Culkin) is more concerned with forming short-term relationships (with characters played by Noël Wells, Trieste Kelly Dunn, Zoe Graham, and Martha Kelly) that he tanks when things start getting too serious, with the help of his mom (Megan Mullally). And Ben’s boss/uncle Neo (Nick Offerman) just spends all his time cleaning up after everyone’s mistakes.

It’s surprisingly difficult to concisely describe the plot for this movie because even though it’s only 80 minutes long, it keeps evolving and beginning new storylines. The one constant is that it’s consistently funny, often in dry and understated ways. It does seem a little disjointed at times, and it may well have been created from an unrelated set of funny ideas that were loosely stitched together, but it all does come together at the end.

It does occasionally have a kind of rough “indie” feel to it, especially at the beginning, and that might be off-putting to someone who isn’t used to that kind of thing (and maybe even to people who are). That idea may be even further bolstered by the movie being black and white rather than in color, for no apparent reason. But people who stick with it will probably have their efforts rewarded by what is ultimately a pretty entertaining film.

It (2017)

I’ve never read the book version of It, and at nearly 1500 pages (or 45 hours, if you go the audiobook route), I probably won’t anytime soon. I have seen the 1990 TV miniseries, but it’s been a very long time, and I didn’t remember a lot of the specifics going into the new film. Still, I remember liking the TV version, and I let myself get my hopes up for the new movie, only to have them dashed by actually watching it.

It’s set in the small town of Derry, Maine. The town has a history of losing children, and they seem to be in a spurt of abductions right now, except that none of the adults who haven’t lost children seem to notice or care. But it’s definitely noticed by other kids, especially those who are already at the bottom of the pecking order, getting bullied at school and not having a much better time at home with their parents. Each has had run-ins with some kind of evil force, often in the form of a clown who calls himself Pennywise (played by Bill Skarsgård), but sometimes in the form of a leper or a scary woman from a painting. The kids decide that there’s strength in numbers and that they need to band together to fight whatever monster is coming after them.

It is a movie that’s much scarier in theory than in reality. It tries to create an atmosphere of creepiness, but really just ends up telegraphing all of its attempted scares way in advance so that there’s no surprise or fear whenever it finally arrives. While I suppose it is commendable that it doesn’t rely on jump scares, they might have actually been even more effective than what we get. Unless you have a particular fear of clowns, you may find that Pennywise is not even slightly scary, and probably more annoying than anything else. And the characters that have the most potential for scariness (including a sadistic, sociopathic bully and an icky, molestery father) aren’t really given a chance to develop that to its full potential.

If you watch a lot of horror, then you’ll find that It is sorely lacking in originality. Most of the time, it feels very much like a rip-off of A Nightmare on Elm Street, with the villain only effective because the children fear him, and relying heavily on hallucination to fuel that fear. There’s even a direct, albeit clumsy, reference to the series with A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 shown on the marquee of a movie theater around town. There’s also a bloody bathroom scene in which the gushing blood is initially reminiscent of the elevator scene in The Shining before focusing on a girl completely covered in the stuff in what has to be a direct and intentional reference to Carrie. And most of the downtime, character-developmenty scenes featuring just the kids might as well have been taken directly from a more modern version of Stand by Me. At least those references make more sense, as Stephen King wrote the book for each of them, but they still feel pretty forced and lazy.

When you take away the potential for scariness and originality, what’s left is not very exciting. It’s just a bunch of kids who swear a lot and who do really stupid things like go off alone after they’ve decided that they need to stick together. I’m sure the book goes much deeper into the kids’ characters and backgrounds, as well as why the adults are clueless and/or apathetic, and more about Pennywise, but we’re left to fill in the blanks for ourselves. It is not necessarily terrible, but it’s also not very good.

Marjorie Prime

Artificial intelligence has always been a popular film subject, but it seems especially popular in recent years with great movies like Ex Machina and Her, and not-so-great movies like Morgan and Chappie. AI is becoming much more a part of our lives and its potential is becoming much more clear to the general population. So I had high hopes for Marjorie Prime based on nothing more than the knowledge that it was an arthouse movie that had something to do with AI, but sadly it wasn’t what I had hoped it would be.

The film initially focuses on Marjorie (Lois Smith), whose memory is failing in her waning years. Her daughter Tess (Geena Davis) and son-in-law Jon (Tim Robbins) have gotten Marjorie a holographic, artificially intelligent representation of her late husband to keep her company, to keep her sharp, and to keep her in line. Except it’s her husband as she remembers him: a young man (played by Jon Hamm), rather than the aged version that she buried.

It’s hard to say much more about the film’s plot without potentially giving things away, but there’s really not much to give away because there’s really not much plot at all. It’s a character-driven movie that’s heavy on dialogue and light on science fiction and artificial intelligence. It could’ve easily been made without any sci-fi at all with only minor tweaks to the story, and that’s not what I wanted or expected.

It turns out that the film is actually based on a play, which is very obvious from watching because it’s comprised of very simple set pieces with lots of dialogue and no action. Actually, it’s no energy of any kind, because lines are rarely delivered in anything above a whisper and with any degree of enthusiasm. And it’s full of repetition and scenes that feel more like padding than something purposeful and meaningful. All of this increases as the movie progresses so that by the end I felt like I was getting virtually nothing from it.

I do think that director Michael Almereyda (who did a modern-day version of Hamlet starring Ethan Hawke that I absolutely love and that’s nothing like Marjorie Prime) got exactly the film and performances that he wanted, so the film isn’t a failure in that regard. Maybe if you go in wanting and expecting a very slow, quiet, and low-key drama, then it’ll be right up your alley. But I just couldn’t get into it.