Sunday, 2 October 2016

People - Film Review


Writer/Director - Shane McGoey - 2016 -  84minutes

People is an independent film from New Orleans which is self-described as a series of ‘wicked vignettes’ inspired by the works of Jean-Paul Sartre and Ambrose Bierce. Expect cynical characters and existential themes. Unconventional is the right word.

The film presents confrontations between extreme characters with varying morality. Interesting collisions between well realised but extreme and intense characters. These battles include a psychiatrist and his manipulative patient, an awkward date after a one-night stand, a strained gathering of friends, an arguing couple rushing to the hospital and a screenwriter fighting for creative control of his film. They are all attempting to understand and evaluate themselves and compare with each other. As the film goes on we find these characters linked in more surprising ways.

Each vignette has its own breath of fresh energy and unique setting. The over the desk appointment between doctor and patient has a confined and claustrophobic setting as this meeting is confidential, while the awkward date in a restaurant introduces a public, open space with witnesses. Even more claustrophobic is the frantic car journey where a couple argue. Then there is the passionate one-sided phone conversation where a screenwriter pleads his case to his less creatively minded studio executives. Here it becomes a one man show as we follow the screenwriter pacing back and forth and preaching his art over the phone while the execs repeatedly shoot him down.

With such an eclectic ensemble, success seems to rest on the casting and performances of the actors. People has such a fantastic cast for this type of project. The variance in emotions and subtlety from this cast helps bring the world to life. With such twisted and opposing characters, the film’s stance is as a dark-comedy drama. The over the top conversations and situations are embraced as the heart of the films humour.

Something else bubbles underneath, preventing it from just being a collection of shorts. They are linked yes, but something expands quietly in the background. An unravelling of reality that gives the whole film a delicious twist and new direction. A microphone creeps into view but it is no mistake. The screenwriter lamenting cinema and the demise of his latest film sounds strikingly like the very one we are watching. Ultimately the final scene embellishes this symbolism and loose reality.

It may all sound ridiculous or pretentious or overly ambitious but it is very well achieved. The shoot was completed in only six days but the result does not feel rushed, instead it is interesting and energetic; simple but effective. The dialogue is impressive and entertaining. It reminded me of the infinitely re-watchable Clerks. Snappy, tongue in cheek, cynical and provocative. Heavy subjects but not to be taken so seriously. It makes the most of the energy and creativity of underground independent cinema.

Something unusual and certainly likely to spark more discussion and analysis than any Hollywood film has recently. Unexpected, engaging and darkly comic.

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