blank'/> Cinema Reviews: Motivational Growth - Inspiring First Feature

Friday, June 19, 2015

Motivational Growth - Inspiring First Feature

This should make for an interesting review; I met the director Don Thacker at Crypticon Seattle 2015 and talked to him at length, so while I overall loved this film, I have to tread carefully caus this guy knows me and could track me down:)

First off, for a debut feature film "Motivational Growth" is outstanding. I agree with other critics that there is nothing to make apologies for here, i.e. "in spite of technical shortcomings" - there are no technical shortcomings, the level of craft and skill on display here is formidable. This isn't a good film for a debut feature, it's good film full stop.

There are multiple things here to like: from the brilliant, grimy art direction on the amazing set, the level of execution in terms of jib moves, time lapse and composition, the invention and poetry of the script (From Ian's brilliant conversations to camera, The Mold's beautiful language and Ox's constant "shut up". In person, Thacker has the energy of Tarantino, but his dialogue here feels more like the Coen Brothers or Tom Stoppard), the amazing performances across the board (Adrian Giovanni gives an assured, wired and intense performance, Jeffrey Comb's voice as The Mold is outstanding, and I loved Box and the freaky Plasmoday guy), the great design and puppetry of The Mold itself - a welcome break from our overly CGI'ed times - to beautifully surreal sequences like Ian sucking from a fungal tit on the wall and suspended horizontally. Thacker wants to entertain, surprise and make an impact and he does so brilliantly.

Although wildly diverse and well executed, for me the programs on the television were perhaps the weakest element of the film. I simply didn't feel they were as funny as they could have been, nor the satire as lacerating as these kind of zombifying, soul crushing programs warrant. I just feel this has been done better before in other films.

Ian also emerges in these programs as fantasy/hallucinations, with the television (Or "Kent") accusing Ian of betrayal and that the TV "looked after him" long before (The Mold?) In the overall context of the film it's unclear whether "Kent" is a separate character, perhaps a rival to The Mold for Ian's allegiance? Or is "Kent", who often uses the same language as The Mold, merely an extension of The Mold? This ambiguity is merely distracting rather than being an engaging mystery within the film.

The 8-bit music, while fitting the period (The film is set in the early 90's) and the aesthetic of the Imagos production company, is occasionally jarring with the action on screen.

My only other complaint is the ending of the film, in terms of leaving the viewer with a feeling of satisfaction, and with the level of artistic innovation (camera move and craft wise) dropping off near this point.

While it is hinted at at various stages during the film that Ian is dead (Or at the very least "someone" has died), I was disinterested in the possibility that the entire film was one long hallucination/after life experience as Ian's dead body is consumed/transformed by mold, so I had dismissed that prospect early on. For most of the film my mind had been blown by the originality (Such as Ian talking to camera; which I haven't seen before in a Horror film) on display, so an ending with Ian dead and engaging with his dream girl only as a hallucination, left me feeling a bit cheated.

It has to be said, however, that the ending is very confusing and open ended. After being cocooned in a very Mold-like form (Juxtaposed with a great monologue from The Mold about how Man has always been the victim of death and decay), the film appears to restart from the point of Ian waking up after his fall in the bathroom, with Ian resuming his unkempt, filthy state on the couch at the start of the film. So is Ian dead or isn't he, and did he ever undergo his "motivational growth" from The Mold?

It's also possible that I simply didn't get the film in it's entirety. Thankfully the film, mixing elements of "Brazil", "Little Shop of Horrors" and "Fight Club", is such an enjoyable ride that it will warrant repeat viewings in the future. And maybe at last I will "get" it:)

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