Friday, June 22, 2012

Heads-up! DOUBLE OR NOTHING, from Neil LaBute & Nathaniel Krause, screens Sat., 6/23, at the Palm Springs 2012 Shortfest

The question of the moment, if anyone's asking: Has Neil LaBute truly mellowed? After knocking the socks off certain critics with his initial forays into cinema -- In the Company of Men and Your Friends and Neighbors, he did a turnaround by directing and co-adapting A.S. Byatt's Possession, followed by his excellent film of his own play, The Shape of Things -- the latter two showing a range of interests and skills we didn't know he possessed. Then came his only out-and-out disaster, the remake of The Wicker Man. Since then the guy's been doing -- film-wise --  mostly shorts, in some cases written by him but directed by others, one of which in this category will be shown tomorrow, Saturday, June 23, as part of the 2012 Palm Springs Shortfest.

DOUBLE OR NOTHING, but ten minutes long, returns us to typical LaBute territory, that of the uber-obnoxious SWM (single white male or straight white male, take your pick). This time he is played by one of our current tip-top young male actors, Adam Brody (above, left), who has quite a versatile range. At age 32 he has already 47 roles to his credit --  from In the Land of Women, to Smiley Face, Death in Love, Jennifer's Body, and the recent Damsels in Distress. Here's he plays perhaps the single most obnoxious character in the history of (short) film. Could we stand more than ten minutes of this guy? Doubtful. He is abetted by Louisa Krause, very good as his put-upon girlfriend, and Keith David (above, right), equally so in the role of a down-on-his-luck-and-maybe-homeless man.

As usual with La Bute, there's a surprise in store, and what it is simply adds to the misogyny on view. But, as also usual with LaBute, this misogyny (TrustMovies believes, anyway) is part of the character's rather than the writer's make-up. And so the dialog here -- as is typical of this writer -- is real, clever and on the mark. The film was directed by Nathaniel Krause, as his thesis film for USC, and though ten minutes is not really long enough to make much of a judgment, Krause certainly get us quickly into things via close camerawork (by Jeff Webster) and proper editing by Carlos Haynes, bringing to dismal life this wretched human being, and the two people with whom he's involved for these few minutes. We're with (well, against) the Brody character almost immediately, and, again, as with so many of La Bute's tales, we keep gasping and wondering, How far can this guy go? You'll find out if you have the chance to see this nasty little... gem? Nah. More like a lump of coal. But there's a place for coal, and lots of it, in in the universe of this writer, who loves, like nobody else, to hold up a mirror to the face of snotty white-male entitlement.

Double of Nothing screens at the Palm Springs Shortfest on Saturday, June 23, at 4:00PM at the Camelot Theaters -- as part of the Results May Vary program.

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