Wednesday 11 December 2013

LARPer (2013)

Director: Shane Sandler
Stars: David Weis, Tiffany Vo and Calion Maston
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.
It's unfortunate that the fundamental story of LARPer is as generic as it is, because the folk at Incoming! Productions did throw quite a lot of invention into it. At heart it's a non-entity of a picture because it's a romcom that phrases its com in fundamentally nerdy terms and never even gets to the rom. I'm in two minds as to whether it's a playful but accurate romp into nerd psychology or yet another propagation of the stereotype. Certainly Christian fits everything on the checklist: he lives at his parents' house where he spends every waking hour playing games; his only apparent friend is a fellow gamer who he talks to online; his mother has to pry him out of his room, which prompts him to go to a café and continue with the very same game, albeit badly because he's distracted by the cute Asian waitress with blue hair that he lusts after in silence. She looks like an anime cosplayer out of costume, which would be right up his alley, if only he could talk to her. He hasn't got that far in six months even though he calls her 'my girl'.

And with that grounding, we take a detour into comedy territory. Embarrassed to tell Roxy that he's on a MMORPG (hey, if the title is a nerdy acronym, I can throw out another one) or 'role playing game', he explains that he's casting roles for a play he's producing. When she professes interest, he finds himself forced to back up the lie and therein supposedly lies the humour. In truth, there's very little humour to be found in this side of the film. It works out just as badly as you might expect for the precise reasons you might expect and there are precious few laughs to be had as it gets there, though there's irony in Christian playing a live action role to avoid telling Roxy he's playing a roleplaying game, and in the live action role involving casting roles to live action roleplayers. Given that David Weis is playing Christian playing... well, you get the picture; the title is a lot more meaningful than it might seem to anyone just focusing on the dress up antics in the park.
I enjoyed the gimmickry a lot more than I enjoyed the acting or the story. It isn't as sophisticated as it believes it is, but it does ring very true, which is exceedingly rare in the movies. It isn't just CSI: Miami; most use of IT on screen is generally complete gibberish and use of gaming is perhaps even more so. I know a lot of people as relentlessly unmagnetic as how David Weis plays Christian. Social inadequacy comes in a lot of forms, most of which are not as interesting to watch as the extreme nerds we tend to see in Hollywood blockbusters. I liked the way a LARPer battle is overlaid with fighting game graphics. The credits unfold in blocky 8 bit characters and the score mines the various game genres, also going back to 8 bit chiptunes at the end. Perhaps director Shane Sandler overdid the graphic manipulation, but that's the sort of approach that fits this sort of character. It also means that while the film doesn't say or do much, there is more here than a quick glance would suggest.

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