Because I had some free time yesterday, I perused my cable provider's Video On Demand movie listings. While there wasn't anything spectacular, I decided upon a 1 hour and 20 minute film called "Fifty pills." The movie featured Lou Taylor Pucci, John Hensley (Nip/Tuck), and Kristen Bell (Heroes, Forgetting Sarah Marshall). I thought to myself as I was choosing the film, "Hmm, an indie film on Showtime, has great potential." Unfortunately it didn't
First, a quick rundown of the plot. A college student (Lou Taylor Pucci) loses his scholarship after his roommate (John Hensley) throws a party that gets busted. To make it up to him, the roommate offers the student an option to sell 50 ecstasy pills at 20 dollars a pop to stay in school. What follows is a somewhat odd series of supposedly "life changing" events. In his travels the student meets a dominatrix, an insane day trader, and a competing drug dealer (among others).
Content/Performances: Poor Follow through/Forced While the concept has great potential, there was a complete lack of follow through in the story. It seems as though the screenwriter was trying too hard to make jokes rather than allowing them to flow organically from the situation. For example, the student visits a dominatrix. Instead of allowing the viewer to merely enjoy the awkwardness of an innocent college student entering the lair of a dominatrix, the writer went too far. Entering the home, the student was greeted by a grandmother. Thinking he had entered the wrong house, he turned around to leave, however the grandmother stopped him with the statement, "You're the one selling the ecstasy pills, right? My daughter is downstairs." The grandmother acted completely normal in the situation. It might seem funny, but it translated poorly. I didn't laugh, rather I just waited for the plot to continue. To make things worse, once the boy got down there he was greeted by the screaming dominatrix. Who through a combination of poorly written lines and mediocre acting completely took me out of the film. I was so uncomfortable at the poor composition of this scene and the forced attempt at humor that I almost had to fast-forward through the part. This was not the only scene that went poorly, the rest of the drug dealing situations were much the same way: crazy person, awkward interaction, boy leaves.
The mediocrity was not restricted to these situations, however. The motivations of the female love interest (Kristen Bell) were not well developed. I'm not sure whether it was poor acting or writing (likely the former), but I couldn't find a justification for her to act the way she acted. In the film, she is supposed to be "worried" that the protagonist is turning into his roommate by selling drugs. However, the way it plays out is that she doesn't seem too concerned about it, because frankly she is not too invested in the character. They're merely good friends. One things she asks of him in the film is that he show up to her charity Christmas tree selling event. Due to a rival drug dealer the boy cannot make it because he gets kidnapped. When he finally escapes and finds her again, the resulting fallout made it seem like had cheated on her. He literally begged for forgiveness. Strangely enough, he hadn't mentioned that HE WAS KIDNAPPED. I couldn't help but laugh, partially because of how ridiculous he was acting and partially because I wasn't connected to either character in either way. Frankly, I just saw him as an absurd boy, which in this film is not a unique quality for a character.
In this film you'll see that characters are one dimensional which tends to make them very uninteresting. "Coleman" the student's roommate (played by John Hensley) is the quintessential "player." He cheats on his girlfriend, throws parties, yet goes through NO journey in the film. Even though he faces ramifications for his actions, he doesn't learn. He just continues to act of his own accord. This makes it incredibly hard to believe that in some magical moment in the last 5 minutes he shows remorse and offers to pay his roommate's tuition. Once again, what an absurd boy.
Film Design: Nothing Special One could easily argue that without good writing a film is doomed. I would tend to agree, however sometimes the overwhelming beauty of a film can remove some viewers from a poorly constructed plot. This was unfortunately not the case in this film. Unlike Harry Potter which had outstanding visuals to accompany a good plot, lighting was fairly high key. There was no shot complexity, no mood lighting, no inventive editing. Just a banal shot progression. It's what one would expect out of a film and it's what you get.
Overall, this film was mediocre at best. The concept was good, but poor acting and forced comedy essentially killed it. The one thing I will mention that was outstanding was the music. The music was primarily performed by a group called La Rocca; I highly recommend them. Favorite songs: Cambodia- La Rocca, Now the Sun is out- Greg Johnson.