Tuesday 3 December 2013

Smiling (2013)

Director: Shawn Esplin
Stars: Andres Galindo, Barry Lewis and Ashlee Renee
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.
When it comes to film challenges, you can generally count on Shawn Esplin to submit something a little different from anyone else. I've seen three of his IFP films this year and they're all interesting, but so far that's the best thing that can be said about them. I liked the originality of his Breakout film, Shiny, but it wasn't able to become what it could have been. Escape from Zany's Baking Company, his short for Beat the Clock, was a riotous parody whose substance was inherently limited by the approach. Now there's a Mystery Box submission, Smiling, which is the weakest of the three. The best part was the great choice of music at the end; the film may be called Smiling and it revolves around smiling, but I wasn't smiling until the Louisiana Rhythm Kings started singing When You're Smiling. Unfortunately they don't do that until the film is over and the end credits call for accompaniment. It's not that I don't like clowns, which the modern trend would expect; I just didn't like this clown.

He's George, he's in therapy with an anger problem and he rubbed me up the wrong way from moment one. Partly it's Andres Galindo's attempts to be memorable, which merely underline how he isn't Heath Ledger, and partly it's the half costume, which includes everything except the suit, but mostly it's how unsympathetic he's written. We're conditioned to sympathise with the poor guy in therapy but George made me sympathise with his shrink, Dexter. Barry Lewis does fine but isn't given anything to do. That leaves the film on Ashlee Renee's shoulders as George's sister Tina, whose bipolar disorder has George so angry to begin with, and that's an impossible task. So, who should I care about here? I had the same problem with Gone with the Wind, but at least that had Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh and groundbreaking cinematography from William Cameron Menzies to help keep us engaged. Smiling only trumps Gone with the Wind with its length. If only that had run under five minutes too.

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