(br) wrote: Brad T. Gottfred's second feature length film, Orgies and the Meaning of Life, is filled with good intentions. It wants to-and is moderately successful at-ripping the closet door off of sexual fantasies and the embarrassment ascribed to them. In the film, Gottfred plays Baxter Goode, a man who needs to visualize himself in the middle of an orgy in order to have sex with a woman. He theorizes that when he finds "the one," she will help him kick the fantasy to the curb. He's a courier boy by day, aspiring stick figure story writer by night and riddled with guilt all the time. Why guilt? His father is a best-selling Christian self-help book writer and has ingrained five rules for being a good person in the eyes of God into his son's brain from a young age.Okay, so let's get out of the way first. Orgies is a low budget movie. Want to know how low budget? Gottfred not only stars in the movie (he's in virtually every scene), but he also writes, directs and produces it. The budget, or lack thereof, is evident in every scene, in every interaction, in every setting from beginning to end. Disregard the seemingly missing key light (we'll talk more about that later) or the graininess in every scene. This goes to a much more basic level. Because Gottfred is the sole creative force behind the film, it's hard not to feel the movie needs a polish from someone "on the outside." While this isn't necessarily a problem only associated with small films, the money simply isn't there to hire anyone to professionally do the job. Baxter, more than anyone else in the film, vacillates between a normal version of conversational English and a more matter of fact, professional style.Right after Baxter decides not to have sex with Allison (Lindsay Wray)-his theoretical "one"- he says the following:"The reason I stop before we had sex is because every time I have sex with a woman, I can't help but to imagine..."Say that line out loud. Doesn't it feel...awkward while rolling off the tongue? That's the way it sounds, too, in the finished film. And, in the long run, it's how the entirety of Orgies plays out: awkwardly, bumbling from one thing to another with elements thrown in "just because" Gottfred can. A minor plot line featuring a neighbor looking for a dog, a recurring scene of Baxter moving a turtle off the road and a lesbian roommate who may be a figment of his imagination are never fleshed out or given any meaning. (The writer/director even mentions all of them in his director's statement, refusing to explain what they mean.)The problem, aside from budget, Gottfred runs into is a lack of focus. One moment we're heavily embedded inside Baxter's struggle to not fall back on his sexual fantasies and the next the setting shifts to his fantasy world or a past event concerning his parents, followed by pages taken out of his "stick figure porn" book. Clocking in at just 83-minutes (not the 89 listed on the back cover), Orgies has a form of ADD, never being able to focus on one plot line for too long. Had the extraneous material been omitted, there would have been more time to delve into why Baxter feels having the orgy fantasy is wrong because that is the more interesting story element. Not the vanishing lesbian friend or family drama. And certainly not his stick figure book.These other portions of the movie, the stick figure book, his father's work and so on, are all variations on the main plot. For instance, a flashback shows Dad (Brooks Douglass) quizzing a young Baxter on the lessons he has written about. One, always telling the truth, comes up as Baxter can't tell Allison what his sexual "dysfunction" happens to be...while Stick Figure Baxter wrestles with being honest to himself. In his case, he is on a mission to find the three dimensional world (in other words, real world Baxter's "the one"). See how the movie plays out? There's something to be said for thinking outside the box and doing something different, but Gottfred gets completely lost in the writing conventions to the detriment of the story itself.If there is a silver lining here, it's that Gottfred imbues his character with small flourishes, tiny personality quirks which feel authentic and real. He writes on a steamy shower door. A pencil sharpener and phone both distract him from work. These moments show us there is genuine talent inside the writer if everything else can be sorted out. The acting, across the board, is acceptable without any clear standouts or real stinkers. We're never given much time to know the people on screen, outside of Baxter, so that's to be expected. This is an indie film that wants to be provocative and thoughtful but gets caught up trying to be too cute for its own good.
(ag) wrote: I'll watch anything with Ice Cube in it because it's just so fun to watch him get pissed off. This film was simple and sweet. No epic action scenes here, just decently choreographed shootouts. Films that follow an event occuring over a few hours are hard to pull off sometimes, but Walter Hill didn't do a terrible job. Some good old gun-toting, double-crossing gangsters versus ambitious treasure-seekers, a classic match up. It's almost as if the screenplay for some Pirate movie was modified to fit an urban setting. Worth a watch.