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Friday, 14 November 2014

The Idea (2014)

Director: Andy Robinson
Stars: Dillon Buffington, Troy Ralph, Jonathan Holdsworth, Chris Avila, Eddie Manteca, Daniela Mitchell, Manuel Pena and Jonathan Boutin
This film was a submission to one of the IFP Phoenix film challenges in 2013. Here's an index to my reviews of 2013 submissions.
Making movies about making movies is always a dangerous idea but it's also an intriguing one. For half of its running time, The Idea is surprisingly astute and full of superb little details that are worth watching the film a few times to fully catch. Unfortunately, it ends up, perhaps inevitably, as the victim of the film challenge time limit. I get the impression that Dillon Buffington, who wrote the picture in which he writes a picture with two colleagues, could have continued the detail-oriented joy of the first half to a stronger, more natural conclusion and, in doing so, generated an excellent fifteen minute short film. That's not how film challenges work though, so he had to find a way to wrap it up quicker and couldn't find a good way to do so. It's not a bad ending, because it actually describes the evolution of modern Hollywood movies, but it could have been a lot better. Half a great film with an OK ending is still pretty good, but an entire great film would be much more worthy. I hope he makes it.

We're here to watch three men write a movie while sitting on their couch bandying ideas around. That's hardly an engaging sight, so we also get to see what they conjure up in their imaginations, then change to meet what the conjurors change. They start with a guy, make him a mechanic but detour into who he should be with. One wants him to be relatable, so gives him a 'smokin' hot girlfriend', while another has the girlfriend be 'plain and uninteresting' because 'smokin' hot' isn't relatable. Am I mistaken or are both played by the same actress? If so, that's a nice touch. Then they make him gay, leading to a stupid joke that's actually a telling comment about writers with poor vocabularies and then a superb breaking of the fourth wall to highlight that 'sexual orientation doesn't matter'. It carries on like this for a little while, the conflict about conflict leading to conflict and everything seeming stupid while actually being clever. If I read the credits correctly, one actor is even playing another, while the other delivers pizza. Nice.

But then The Idea runs out of time to do the idea justice, which is unfortunate but difficult to see how it could have been avoided. So, if it's inevitably not the film it could have been, what about the film that it was? Beyond Buffington's writing, what leapt out at me was the editing, which isn't credited so I have no idea who to praise. The ideas in The Idea come thick and fast and they could easily have been mired in bad editing. Fortunately they aren't; whoever cut the picture kept them in perpetual motion, even while switching back and forth between the writers and their visions. While the actors playing the writers are capable, if mostly through well delivered dialogue as the rest of the talent required involved looking or just sitting on a couch, those in the imagination shots deserve credit as they had no way to grow, being merely ideas, but did have to absolutely nail each of those ideas in no time flat, sometimes just a second or so. With it all done right, I really want to see this lose its ending and find its full flow.

The Idea can be watched online for free at YouTube.

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