Guest reviewer Mike Hebert returns, to tackle the collection of shorts LOVE AND DISTRUST.
A movie that grandly purports to show love in all its aspects, Love and Distrust actually seems to have been conceived as a cynical cash grab designed to dupe fans of Twilight’s Robert Pattinson, Avatar’s Sam Worthington, Iron Man’s Robert Downey Jr, Junebug’s Amy Adams, and Spider Man’s James Franco into thinking, “Holy shit, we get ALL these stars in ONE movie! It’s gonna be one MOTHER of a romantic comedy!”
Well folks, I’m here to tell you, it isn’t. It is five very different films from five very different directors, on some aspect of love, whether it is obsession, true love, doubt, suspicion and sincerity. None are longer than fifteen minutes, so if you think of the 24-hour short film competition near the end of EIFF with stars, you’ll have some idea of the vibe.
Before I break down the films for you, I have the answers to two questions that I know my fellow pop culture fanatics have: Yes, Sam Worthington can act when offered a decent part that doesn’t involve a green screen. And unfortunately the jury’s still out on poor Mr. Pattinson, who has to endure yet another teenage girl mooning over him in his segment. With that out of the way, let’s break them down.
The Summer House – In this 2008 London Film Academy short, it’s July 1969 in a small village in northern France and everyone is captivated by the unfolding events of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Jane (Talulah Riley) is interested in the moon too, but she’s more interested in mooning over moody and ardent Richard (Robert Pattinson), while equally moody Nico (Laurence Beck) moons over her. Got all that? What’s it all about? We never quite find out, but director Daisy Gili, writer Ian Beck and cinematographer Alex Ryle have crafted a superb evocation of time and place in a remarkable twelve minutes.
Blue Poles – Five years before Avatar, Sam Worthington starred as Miles, a young man trying to break free of his parents and check out the titular painting at a gallery in Canberra, picks up naive hitchhiker Sylvia (Emma Randall), who walked in on her cheating boyfriend. They spend an afternoon driving and talking in the Australian countryside, spend a night in a motel, and eventually come to the sad realization that excessive conversation is no substitute for truly knowing someone. Nice retro feel from cinematographer Gareth Tillson and director Darcy Yuille.
Grasshopper - In this 2006 American Film Institute short, busy businessman James Franco meets Gothic streetwalker Rachel Miner on a train, and doesn’t give her a second thought…until he realizes that he’s forgotten his phone on said train. She agrees to return it and sets in motion a chain of events that are both intriguing and ultimately tragic. This parable on the perils of prejudgement (just give me a minute to recover from popping those p’s) is probably the most watchable and affecting of the five, thanks to the presence of Franco’s believable angst. Miner, Broadway’s Anne Frank, or for you obscure-trivia hounds, the one time Mrs. Macaulay Culkin, also stands out by giving her streetwalker enough shadings and backstory to linger in our memories awhile after it’s over. Good mood and pacing by writer/director Eric Kmetz.
The final two shorts that round out Love and Distrust were likely tacked on simply because of who starred in them. 2006’s Pennies… stars Amy Adams as Charlotte, a diner waitress who will do anything to save her daughter and see her again, as she receives instructions over the phone from a menacing stranger. This against-all odds role would seem to be tailor made for Adams, except that she doesn’t have much to play with, as directors Warner Loughlin and Diana Valentine choose to pad the film’s 24-minute running time with incessant shots sped-up shots of Charlotte’s long shift juxtaposed with a ticking clock. This script by Eddie Adams, Matthew Grant, and Marc Kamyab might have benefitted from a feature running time.
And finally we have Auto Motives, a 2000 people-and-their–cars anthology directed by none other than The Sopranos’ Lorraine Bracco. Front and center are Robert Downey Jr. and Scott Gorman as LA car detailers Rob and Scott, who want nothing more than face time with the King of the World himself, James Cameron. And the man actually shows up in his pickup truck, only to berate our protagonists for being twenty minutes late. Meanwhile, in New York City, Allison Janney’s socialite really wants to bed a cowboy in her limo. And over in Washington Square, Bracco’s Sopranos costar Michael Imperioli tries to entice women into his car by complimenting them on their hair. (Now if only Bracco could have gotten James Gandolfini to play that part…)
Of the five films, Auto Motives is the one that was blatantly improvised, according to notes from the IMDb. But to be honest, the whole of Love and Distrust, except for the James Franco gem in the middle, feels that way. If you are a curiosity seeker looking for something very different, you will find something here. But if you like linear cohesion in your movies, you may well be calling this Loathe and Distrust at the end of 94 minutes. Better to wait until it shows up on Showcase.